Anyone still hoping that Sam Beam and Iron & Wine would ever go back to the lo-fi sound of their first album might as well give up on that pipe dream. On the 2005 EP Woman King, Iron & Wine's sound is more produced and varied than ever. The record's arrangements are overflowing with a wealth of percussion, vocal harmonies, banjos, violins, and pianos. Beam's vocals, while always a thing of beauty, sound more assured and powerful than ever. Iron & Wine sound like a real band; if you heard them in a big-budget Hollywood film you wouldn't even flinch. The widening and smoothing of the band's approach does Beam's songs great favors. While his songwriting is as emotionally direct and haunting as ever (no amount of studio sheen could change that), this EP never feels insular, as his previous albums sometimes did. It sounds widescreen and universal. Woman King is too short to be considered the high point of Iron & Wine's career -- it certainly points in that direction, though.
01 Woman King Beam 4:20
02 Jezebel Beam 5:07
03 Gray Stables Beam 3:55
04 Freedom Hangs Like Heaven Beam 4:00
05 My Lady's House Beam 3:32
06 Evening on the Ground (Lilith's Song) Beam 3:04