Fast forward to the recent explosion of rusticated bands like Mumford & Sons and the Decemberists, likable but ultimately forgettable ensembles. If you want to hear something truly divergent from this school, cue up Iron & Wine's 2007 "The Shepherd's Dog." Sam Beam and company turn the folk sound on it's ear, building abstract landscapes with a foundation of acoustic guitar as heard through a psychedelic filter. This is a gateway album to be listened to in it's entirety, and, to be fair, it's a bit of an acquired taste.
Imagine you're in a club enjoying an acoustic troupe when you begin to realize that someone spiked your drink. The opening "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" moves along at a catchy pace, but as you get deeper into the playlist, Sam, his accompanying sister Sarah, and others introduce sounds, instruments, and keys that stretch your initial patience. Will you flee from this unconventional cacophony or give it a chance to mellifluously blend into the arrangement, as it ultimately does? A second listen to songs like "Carousel," draws you further into the Dog's addition. This is Iron & Wine's magnum opus but it's definitely not for the folk puritan. Fortunately and unfortunately, it may leave you craving for more.