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At Long Last, Iron & Wine Drops 'Waves Of Galveston'

Sam Beam has been blessedly prolific since releasing The Creek Drank the Cradle, his debut as Iron & Wine, in 2002: In addition to six official studio albums and a bunch of EPs, he's released several long-form collections of home recordings and rarities, as well as EP- or album-length collaborations with Calexico, Jesca Hoop and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell. In fact, Beam's catalog is deep and rich enough that some of his best songs get buried — take, for example, the nine-minute masterpiece "The Trapeze Swinger," which he'd once relegated to the soundtrack for the 2004 film In Good Company.

In other words, when Beam releases a six-song EP of outtakes — as he's about to do with Weed Garden, recorded during the sessions that produced last year's terrific Beast Epic — the news isn't as minor as it sounds. Not only is Weed Garden a consistently powerful extension of Beast Epic, but it also marks the first studio release of one of Beam's live staples: "Waves of Galveston." That Ghost on Ghost outtake has been cropping up in performances for years, dating at least as far back as a 2013 session for The A.V. Club, but it benefits enormously from a new full-band arrangement that's crisp and lovely, spare but sweet.

Weed Garden is out Aug. 31 via Sub Pop.

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Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)