Sam Beam, the bearded craftsman otherwise known as Iron & Wine, is the very personification of musical consistency. As he's progressed from murmured acoustic ruminations (2002's The Creek Drank the Cradle) to full-blooded, rainbow-hued aural expanses (2007's The Shepherd's Dog), he's gotten only weirder and incrementally more engaging. His early, intimate guitar-and-voice tunes are as powerful as ever; he could have gone down that path and crafted a legacy as his generation's indie-rock Dylan, but he doesn't seem interested in playing to anyone's expectations. On Kiss Each Other Clean, his muse must have told him to pull back on the reins. Still working with psych-rock headmaster Brian Deck behind the boards, he continues to indulge in unusual sounds - "Me and Lazarus" is a hilariously groovy highlight, mingling layers of wild-ass synths and sax interjections - but the tunes are more economical and less exploratory. And when it comes to straight-up angelic beauty, Beam's still king; on "Godless Brother in Love," dude's just showing off, tossing around soulful harmonies like party confetti. Besides, he remains a fascinating wordsmith. I'm still not sure exactly what it means to "become an ice-cream cone," but rolling off his sharp, schooled tongue, it sounds like sage poetry.