So I've never been just a giant fan of Iron & Wine. I, like everyone else, loved his cover of "Such Great Heights" on the Garden State soundtrack (and apparently released as a b-side to The Postal Service's single of "Such Great Heights") but that's been the extent of my devotion; listening to the album The Shepherd's Dog, however, has changed my mind. It is just so close to perfect that I have had trouble wrapping my mind around it.
I'll only focus on one track: #9 "Boy With a Coin." I know the album was released in 2007, but I didn't listen to it until 2008 so I'm putting this song up as a nominee for the best use of subtle handclaps as a rhythm section of 2008. Sam Beam (the man behind the nom de voix) uses his voice to perfection on this song and it sounds as if the vocals are mixed at the same level as the accompaniment affording an otherwise unexplainable honesty to the song.
I doubt it's happenstance that during most of my time spent listening to the album, I've been reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. There's a certain ephemeral quality to Beam's lyrics that are likely influenced by the poems of the American Bard. Also, Beam has a pretty righteous beard.