Iron & Wine

Even if you don't think you know Iron & Wine, the stage name of singer-songwriter Sam Beam (inspired by the packaging on a protein supplement), you've no doubt been caught mouthing the words to his cover of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" in the M&M's commercial that plays before most movies. The Shepherd's Dog, the bearded Beam's fourth proper album, will surely delight fans of his whispered crooning. It starts out with the upbeat (at least for Beam) and surprisingly catchy "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" before leading listeners on a journey through lyrics filled with captivating images. Songs such as "Carousel" combine the sweet nostalgia of a Wonder Years episode with the eeriness of Mississippi swampland, while first single "Boy With a Coin" layers handclapping with a variety of sounds inspired by world music. It's tempting to think that, with Beam's biblical looks and soothing voice, he'd be the perfect man to rock you to sleep at night, but the evocative pieces about life, love and war on The Shepherd's Dog just might keep you up instead.

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Sophie Rosenblum