A few weeks ago Iron & Wine and Ben Birdwell released a collaborative record covering 12 various songs. We originally found out about the record whilst driving through the Michigan countryside on our way back from a wedding. I suppose we were a little late finding out about the record, being that it was released on July 17th, but hey, I’m not 16 anymore. I don’t have the same dedication to patrolling Spin, Pitchfork and Stereogum every morning for new releases. The record seemed to fit the mood we were in at that particular point in time. We were crammed into the backseat of a fairly spacious Hyundai Sonata, our legs and backs aching and the only music on the radio being Sirius XM 70’s on 7. Sorry Casey Kasem, but I find 70’s Top 40 to be particularly nauseating, as does Hannah. So Hannah found Sing Into My Mouth, and instantly we were relaxed. The songs were perfect bite sized pieces of comfort, wrapped in just the right amount of reverb.
So of course, when we were finally back from the long drive, we went to our favorite record store, The Exclusive Company and picked up the record. First things first, we really, genuinely love this record. It has become an instant favorite in our collection. The production, the singing, the song choices, everything is great. Sing Into My Mouth is a covers album, which makes song selection of the utmost importance. Out of all the songs on the record, Hannah’s favorite is “Coyote My Little Brother”. She thinks that this song is worth listening to the entire album for, as it’s the last song on the record. She also highly recommends you listen to it on a late summer evening. It perfectly captures the ambiance and emotion of the desire for fall, but still holding onto the last vestiges of summer. (I 100% agree).
In order to prepare for this post Hannah and I have spent a lot of time researching the original songs and the artists who recorded them. The majority of the album fits quite well into the typical Iron & Wine/Bed Bridwell/Band of Horses canon. Folk Rock with an endearing amount of heart added in for good measure. There’s something about Bridwell’s voice that always gets me. I can’t explain it. Hannah has the same feelings about Sam Beam too. Their voices fit together very well here, to the point where at times it’s hard to distinguish between the two of them.
There are two stand out tracks on the album, ones that are very different from the original versions. The first track is a cover of The Talking Heads song “This Must be the Place”. The original is an interesting example of the early 80’s Talking Heads new wave sound. It’s the last song on Speaking in Tongues, an album whose lead single is the barn storming “Burning Down the House”. In the context of The Talking Heads, it’s an interesting song, but even more so as a cover for two very well established alternative folk artists.
The second track that I think stands out is a cover of “Bulletproof Soul” by Sade. Again, a very uncharacteristic choice for the sort of genre that these two artists normally exist in. The rest of the tracks fit in with a few degrees of separation here and there, but these two are incongruous. Here’s the thing; if it wasn’t for these two tracks, the album would be slightly boring. It would be too simple. Too normal. Too easy. The song choice of a covers album represents the entirety of which the album can be judged. If all the songs are too obvious, the album may be good, but not great. What these artists have accomplished is a holistic, well curated covers album that makes a statement. It stands on its own as a good album, true, but the sum of the album is greater than the individual songs on their own.