While an ornateness surrounds Beast Epic, it’s never quite flowery—just like 70s folk at its most stately.
It proves an excellent album for winding down at the end of evening with a favorite tea.
A sequel to The Graduate, with much older—and perhaps wiser—lead characters.
At first listen, this lovingly composed collection of folk-pop seems to recall Sam Beam’s earliest work as Iron & Wine. Beast Epic strays from the pastoral and more complicated arrangements that have marked recent albums. Yet impeccably crafted adornments permeate the songs, be they the finely plucked strings of “About A Bruise,” which knot around each other as if woven by a tailor, or the forlorn Western feel of “Claim Your Ghost,” where the guitar shadows Beam’s compassionate vocals.
In many ways, the album feels like a continuation of Beam’s 2016 collaborative effort with Jesca Hoop, Love Letter for Fire. This is a grown-up, reflective work—one that often looks back on difficult or trying relationships with a fresh perspective. If there’s a simplicity in Beam’s lyrical directness, there’s also room for lines to linger well after they’re song.
Ghosts also haunt the hallways of Beast Epic. Take the end of “Bitter Truth,” where Beam runs down the different ways in which couples may grow old together. “Some get a house that let’s years go by,” he sings on the slowly galloping country-influenced strummer. Or listen to the beautifully pain acknowledgement of continued mistakes on “Right for the Sky,” where Beam sings, “If I could choose/I would do things right” as an ever-so-slight organ hums in the distance.
These lived-in tunes opt for a contemplative approach to friendships, loved ones, and questions of faith. They’re not life lessons or love songs; think of them as memories. Hints of grander orchestration appear, but acoustic instruments only peak in and out to keep the focus on Beam’s warm voice. Every now and again, gentle harmonies arrive, serving as a subtle reminder that it isn’t easy to go it alone.
Designed for intimate listening, the sonics utilize quiet as an instrument and give ample space and presence to Beam’s voice and acoustic guitar. A slight loss of definition occurs when the music gets friskier and the bass turns a bit foggy, yet the stellar packaging, pinpoint graphics, textured gatefold sleeve, and overall solid production reward any analog lover’s decision to opt for the vinyl.
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