One of my very favorite writer Hans Christian Andersen once said, “When words fail, music speaks.” I have never come across another quote that captures the essence of music more accurately. Music is supposed to be the way you communicate with another when regular, mundane words simply cannot get the message across. Music is also the way a lot of artists express their feelings, and in the process, they help us peasants to express our innermost longings. That is why some music will stand the test of time, and others won’t.
Iron and Wine?
If you are not familiar with Iron and Wine, let me give you a little bit of context. A regular child named Samuel Beam born and raised in South Carolina decided to explore his musical talents when a friend lent him a recorder. He had been writing songs long before that, but he didn’t start making demos until he got his hands on the recorder. Just the story of any other indie artist, right? Why is he different?
Iron and Wine is a different singer because of the depth of his lyrics. You can’t listen to an Iron and Wine track and get the meaning right away. You have to listen to it repetitively, think about it, and ponder on what was going on his mind when he came up with such beautiful profound lyrics. And no two people will agree on what he means.
Take “Jezebel”, for instance. Look up the lyrics. What does it make you feel? What is he talking about?
Jezebel was a character from the Hebrew Bible. She was depicted as a villainous queen who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. But in the song, did the artist only talk about this biblical character? Or was he indicating to a deeper problem, like victim blaming? Or was the Jezebel in the song was just a promiscuous lady who kept the narrator hanging? Listen to it. Think about it.
Take “The Trapeze Swinger” instead. Is the narrator simply begging to be remembered by a lost love? Or is he begging to be remembered because he is about to embrace death and he doesn’t want to melt into oblivion? Or is he already dead, and looking upon the people that he left behind? Iron and wine makes us question each sentence, each phrase of his songs. If that isn’t his success as an artist, I don’t know what it is.
Have you heard “Flightless bird, American mouth?” What is he looking for over different lives? Is it a person? Maybe it’s something he lost when he was a “quick-wit boy”? Is it a particular feeling? You cannot help but wonder, can you?
Don’t get me wrong, not all of his songs are as confusing. He takes the banalest scenes from human life and turns them into intricate, meaningful art. Songs like “Such great heights”, “Naked as we came”, “Each coming night”, “Sodom, South Georgia”, or “Upward over the mountain” are quite simple songs that talk about usual interactions and human feelings. But the wording is just so beautiful. It sparks certain reactions from you, and that is why Iron and Wine should be an integral part of your daily playlist.
You need to start listening today
So try his songs out. Turn out the lights, get a cup of coffee, and get lost in the beauty that is all around us. Sometimes it is a little hard to see those without a little nudge. Let Iron and Wine nudge you to that direction.