• Record Label: Sub Pop
  • Release Date: May 19, 2009

Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. Compilations can be tricky to assemble, but Around the Well is both comprehensive and conveniently presented, with each disc representing the two amorphous halves of Iron & Wine's career.
  2. Resplendent with Beam’s raw, whispered tones and snatched memories wrapped in the warmth and emotional calamity Iron And Wine are known for, it’s vintage stuff.
  3. Despite the similitude of both discs, their respective modesty and muscularity present variety without overreaching. To put it into trite punny terms, Well has some depth.
  4. Around the Well is a great retrospective that heps fans to a lot of difficult-to-locate material from one of this decade's finest songwriters. While there is some fairly flat stuff on the first disc, it really gives the listener the sweep of his development as a writer, musician, and arranger.
  5. That sense of musical evolution makes Around the Well a particularly compelling listening, and Beam’s sensitive readings of songs by Stereolab, the Flaming Lips, the Postal Service, and New Order show how sturdy his sound can be, as he translates them to quieter settings without losing their heraldic sentiments.
  6. 80
    These are finely detailed hymnals with a deceptively light touch, led out by Beam’s warm-blanket voice and brittle guitar.
  7. Iron and Wine's slow-motion magic shines here, and the material ranks with their best. It may be the most hypnotizing hour and a half you spend all month.
  8. Anyone who dug Beam’s official albums will likely enjoy this odds-and-ends release.
  9. 60
    Sam Beam's breathy croon is as soothing as a lullaby, but just as limited--which becomes an issue over two discs and 23 songs. Yet that very sameness helps this patchwork of singles, soundtrack cuts, and unreleased tracks cohere.
  10. In the end, the collection's bevy of elegance, purity, and passion is simply 10 tracks too long.
  11. Unlike other odds and sods collections, Around the Well sounds and feels like an accomplished release.
  12. Over its 23 songs, Iron & Wine’s sound changes, from scratchy sparseness to well-appointed sparseness and through to the jittery clamor that marked The Shepherd’s Dog, but the underlying world doesn’t.
  13. Although this two-CD manifesto isn't completely immune to the current bar-lowering--disc one is heavy on wispy, lo-fi throwaways (one exception: an intimate acoustic version of the Flaming Lips' "Waitin' for a Superman")--there's more wheat than chaff.
  14. While there will be a new Iron & Wine album inn 2010, this collection’s amazing consistency, and glut of stellar songs, guarantees that is hardly just a hold-over.
  15. Thanks to Beam's songwriting and his uniformly pretty singing, the music's familiarity doesn't take away from its loveliness.
  16. Any singer-guitarist who can reduce Stereolab, The Postal Service, New Order, and The Flaming Lips into an indistinguishable acoustic muddle is a musician who may have carried aesthetic purity too far. Beam succeeds best on songs like his own 'Sinning Hands.'
  17. Under The Radar
    A collection that will both excite fans and convince newcomers, Around The Well is that rare phenomenon, a rarities compliation that is nigh on essential. [Summer 2009, p.66]
  18. Mojo
    Much here stands in marked contrast to that lushly arranged benchmark ["The Shepherd's Dog"]. [Jul 2009, p.114]
  19. Q Magazine
    The home recordings, however, insist this is probably for fans only. [Jul 2009, p.138]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. DanielB
    Jul 9, 2009
    Amazing, heart-wrenching stuff. Both Cds are terrific but I really recommend giving "The Trapeze Swinger" a listen. It's longer than Amazing, heart-wrenching stuff. Both Cds are terrific but I really recommend giving "The Trapeze Swinger" a listen. It's longer than "Stairway" but it's amazing. Full Review »
  2. BillS
    May 20, 2009
    A strong compilation of out of print and previously unreleased material.