Iron & Wine

If your girlfriend thinks Iron & Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days makes you a bit too sensitive, try handing her a copy of Woman King. Sam Beam's latest EP doesn't transform his softly sung folk into power rockers, but Beam and friends expand their minimal approach with a packed studio's worth of instruments. Stories of violence, empowerment and sexual conflict are as poetic as in previous albums, but this time, they're sprinkled with more piano parts, slide guitars, electric feedback and violins. Singer-songwriter Jason Molina made a similar attempt when he started Magnolia Electric Company, but where he forced an abrupt, uneasy transformation into louder songs, Beam pulls off a subtle evolution that still suits the sensitive man. Only this time, your girlfriend won't cringe so much.

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