Fans of Iron & Wine didn't have to wait long before Sam Beam's hushed, lo-fi recordings gave way to the Technicolor lushness of Woman King and The Shepherd's Dog. Hayden, on the other hand, has spent more than a decade creating somber, subdued music, which makes In Field & Town such a startlingly pleasant change. Hayden hasn't done away with the intimacy of his previous work, nor does the singer's seventh studio album change his melancholic nature. For all intents and purposes, In Field & Town paints the same picture as Elk-Lake Serenade and The Closer I Get, but it does so with brighter colors and wider brush strokes, capturing the slow demise of a relationship with a mix of pianos, trumpets, guitars, vibraphones, harmonica, and percussion. It's always autumn or winter in Hayden's world, and these 11 tracks bypass the springlike feel of puppy love, focusing instead on the unraveling of hope and adoration. "Take it easy," he cautions on the opening title track, a song whose chugging bass loop and percussion clash with the foreboding lyrics. "I see us around this uptight town," it continues, "with emptiness just weighing us down." That weight gets heavier as the album progresses, and Hayden begins lamenting his lover's estrangement just three songs later with "Worthy of Your Esteem." But while that track is certainly heartbroken, it's also orchestrated with lighthearted synths, harmonies, and knotted guitar solos. Songs like "Did I Wake Up Beside You" and "Where and When" continue the light-and-dark contrast, with Hayden's vocals spinning solemn stories over riffs that bounce and shine in a dusty, Americana-styled way. There are detours from that pattern -- most notably the elegiac portrayal of a security guard who excels at origami ("Lonely Security Guard") -- but In Field & Town is mostly concerned with Hayden's heartbreak, and it details those emotions with variety and taste.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey