It's a testament to fickleness that aping Nick Drake was a far more admirable profession five years ago. Not coincidentally, 2002 was the year that Iron And Wine released its debut—and songwriter Sam Beam is back to square one with "Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car," the opening track of The Shepherd's Dog. The song might as well be a Drake outtake: Wrapped in swarming viola and sputtering hand percussion, Beam's dusky whisper and watery cadence sound like they came straight off Drake's Bryter Layter. To its credit, The Shepherd's Dog diversifies from there. Sitar wisps lend a psychotropic fog to "White Tooth Man," while the Latin-pitched "Lovesong Of The Buzzard" bears a vestige of Beam's dalliance with Calexico on 2005's In The Reins EP. Iron And Wine's last full-length, Our Endless Numbered Days, was sparse and ultimately same-y, but Beam invests each track of The Shepherd's Dog with a unique tone and a singular, even gimmicky arrangement. Beneath it all, though, the tunes are almost interchangeable—and in treating these songs like experiments, he's estranged many of them from the emotion roiling just under the surface.
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