Published Mar 22, 2019In 2002, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), a soft-spoken father, husband and film professor residing in Florida, released a sparse, lo-fi debut, The Creek Drank the Cradle, without much fanfare. After putting out an equally lo-fi sounding EP, The Sea & the Rhythm, the following year, Beam released his sophomore LP, Our Endless Numbered Days, in 2004 and his popularity began to rise, thanks in part to tracks featured in various TV shows, movies and commercials.
Our Endless Numbered Days is crisper than Beam's debut releases, but it is still a soft and subtle record. Throughout, Beam gently picks a guitar and banjo, and any additional instrumentation is minimal, yet it all still manages to add extra dimension to Beam's emotional lyrics, the cornerstone of the album. The playfully brushed percussion on "Love and Some Verses" mirrors the joy Beam sings about, and the repetitious piano chords within closer "Passing Afternoon" are like a clock's gongs marking the passage of time.
In the album's most intimate moments, Beam picks simple guitar melodies while his sister Sarah provides hushed backing vocals. The emotional impact of "Naked as We Came" has diluted over the years because of its constant use in melodramatic moments on screen, but even so, it remains the album's strongest track and at its core, Beam's words of enduring devotion speak to the album's larger theme of the multi-faceted power of love.
Alongside remastered versions of the album's 12 tracks, this deluxe 15th anniversary edition of Our Endless Numbered Days includes demo versions of eight songs. This is not the first time that Beam has been generous to his fans: in 2009 he released Around the Well, an extensive collection of B-sides, covers and rarities, and in 2015, he released a collection of rarities and demos entitled Archive Series Volume No. 1.
For album enthusiasts, the lyrical changes within some of these demos are interesting, and their rough simplicity gives listeners an idea of how the album could have sounded if Beam maintained the homespun aesthetic of his earlier recordings. These demos also demonstrate the strong core of Our Endless Numbered Days, which explains why the record is still outstanding 15 years later. (Sub Pop)