Iron and Wine front man Sam Beam makes me wish I had been born a poet. The Creek Drank the Cradle
is very surreal, mythical, haunting; it creates a mood of warmth and comfort, and makes me feel as if I've been transported to another, far more peaceful plane of existence.
Beam's voice suggests a mellower version of Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch crossed with Neil Young, and his harmonies could have come straight out of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young). The songs are carefully crafted from common elements -- acoustic guitar, voice, occasional dobro or banjo. The aforementioned singer/songwriters make suitable reference points, along with the relaxed side of Beck's One Foot in the Grave and Nirvana's heart-wrenching, acoustic cover of "Plateau".
Many listeners would describe The Creek as "pub music" -- it is pleasant enough to not interfere with thoughts and conversations, but you'll miss it when it's gone. It is not merely background noise: it gives meaning and inspiration for whatever issue might be on your mind (writing a master's thesis, cleaning your apartment, getting up the nerve to hold a date's hand). It is universally appealing in the car, the office, and -- I imagine -- live in a coffee shop or smaller rock venue.