Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop combine to create an album of gorgeous, lilting love songs inspired by Beam’s love of the classic duets.
‘Love Letter For Fire’ was conceived when Sam Beam, the man behind Iron and Wine, reached out to Hoop after hearing her music on iTunes. Having wanted to record an album with another songwriter for a long time, he thought Hoop’s voice and music style would combine perfectly with his own, and he was dead right.
The album is characterised by the two artists’ interweaving voices, neither taking centre stage, but instead combining beautifully either in harmony or in ‘call-and-response’, conversation-like structures. This is introduced from the very first track, the minute-long intro ‘Welcome to Feeling’, both voices fitting perfectly over sparse instrumentation, something which will become a theme throughout the album. The first ‘proper’ track on the album ‘One Way to Pray’ is a fantastic example of this. The first part of the verse sung in harmony, the second separately, placed over a simple guitar part and some low strings.
Lyrics and melody shine throughout the album. In this respect Beam’s influence in the songwriting process is apparent, a couple of the songs do sound very much like Iron and Wine, particularly the single ‘Every Songbird Says’ and the track immediately after ‘Bright Lights and Goodbyes’, which could have been lifted straight from Beam’s 2004 album ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’. This is no bad thing of course, in fact these are the two tracks that stand out the most, Beam and Hoop’s vocals harmonise nicely throughout. ‘Bright Lights and Goodbyes’ is especially beautiful, a simple picked guitar part comprises most of the instrumentation, and is joined by occasional piano and low string lines. This allows Beam and Hoop to shine, which they do, singing in unison through the whole song with a lovely ascending melody the focal point.
A few tracks do fall by the wayside. The plodding, folksy ‘Chalk It up to Chi’ seems out of place in comparison to the rest of the album, and doesn’t seem to suit Beam’s voice. ‘We Two Are a Moon’ is interesting in terms of its instrumentation, the guitar seems muted to the point where it almost seems like it’s being played badly, and there is a section where it sounds like all instruments are playing different songs. However, the majority of the album is a triumph in love songs and duets. Beam and Hoop write well together, and their distinct musical styles blend seamlessly. Hopefully we’ll see more collaborations from these two in the future.
‘Love Letter For Fire’ is available now via Sub Pop Records.