Had Iron & Wine taken the fork in the road toward violins and cellos rather than steer left into percussion and psychedelia, Sam Beam’s band might’ve made an album like Cynic’s New Year. Like Beam, Horse Feathers singer Justin Ringle has an iceberg of a voice, all breathy richness flowing above hidden power. The Portland quintet’s latest picks up where 2010′s Thistled Spring left off, finding Ringle singing and strumming among string arrangements that touch on Appalachian energy and concert hall elegance.
The ornamentation is colorful without smearing the lines, leaving Ringle’s gentle laments — hearts that “got the blues,” a titular bird on a leash — at the heart of the set’s 12 songs. “Take a week or month, but you need more than a day,” he sings on “Nearly Old Friends,” and this is certainly music informed by patience. Cynic’s New Year is folk as carefully crafted as a Portland beer, and equally worth the draught.