Week 71: “Passing Afternoon” by Iron & Wine

Don’t be fooled by the ampersand: Iron & Wine is one guy.

The stage name that Sam Beam adopted when he started crafting feathery folk tunes ten years ago came from an item he happened to see on the shelf at a gas station. Sitting among various home remedies like castor oil, Beam spotted a protein supplement for sale called “Beef, Iron & Wine”. He dropped the “beef” part, feeling that the two-sided name fit nicely with the raw-but-delicate sound of his music.

So, the moral of the story is two-pronged: first, if you’re stuck for a band name, never underestimate a trip to the gas station, and second, the name “Beef, Iron & Wine” is still available. Which is good news if you’re looking to start a band made up of exotic-male-dancer-bartenders.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The quiet vocals. As well as making beards cool again, Iron & Wine might be considered the pioneer of whisper-singing.

2. It’s the only song you’re likely to come across where the singer mentions the bougainvillea plant. He could have chosen to sing about any plant in the world; roses, tulips, daisies, lilacs. But he bypassed the plants that hog all the attention and gave the humble bougainvillea its time to shine. And that’s awesome.

3. The three-against-four piano line that begins at 3:09. Not really what you’d call a piano solo…maybe just a piano nightcap.

Recommended listening activity:

Wine on a weeknight.

Buy it here.