Aside from the immediacy and intimacy of his recorded work, there is one thing (aside from the evidently ceaselessly noteworthy fact that he sports a beard…) clear about Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam: he is wonderfully prolific. In just short of 2 ½ years he has released 2 albums (2002’s The Creek Drank the Cradle and 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days) and (with this and 2003’s The Sea and the Rhythm) two EPs. Recorded in August 2004 with Brian Deck at his Engine Studios, Iron & Wine’s latest release is striking both for its broadened palette (percussion, piano, violin, electric guitar) and its thematic focus on female characters both archetypal and personal. The latter is mostly coincidental, a larger batch of songs yielding recurrent imagery when pared down for this EP. The increasingly complex beauty of Iron & Wine’s albums might best be summed up by the following, from SPIN (in a review of Our Endless Numbered Days): “…Beam is a fearlessly accessible songwriter, framing his melancholy in concrete imagery and solid, inviting melodies. He writes with the self-confidence of a man at peace with his gauzy gifts. He sings like a father talking to a child he respects or like a husband to a wife he adores. Beam has given us his second straight masterwork: self-assured, spellbinding and richly, refreshingly adult.” Here’s his third.