By SHAUN SMITH
M. Ward will not disappoint fans of his stripped down, reel-to-reel sound on his latest album A Wasteland Companion.
Ward (Matt Ward) has obviously been influenced by his musical relationship with Zooey Deschanel and it shows on the upbeat piano-laded “Beautiful Girl,” which stands not as a detachment of his signature style but an expansion of his talented reach. Fans of the doe-eyed hipster wonder will enjoy her standing beside Ward on “Sweetheart” and “Me and My Shadow.” Recording with Ward on this record makes her Patsy Cline style and hand claps sound authentic rather than retro.
Ward has shown the value of a scratchy recording vocal reverb to create a hauntingly authentic (signature?) sound that makes his lyrics appear to be pulled from a Dust Bowl era newspaper.
Ward’s songwriting is incredible and has grown since his collaborations with Deschanel and Monsters of Folk (Featuring the Conor Oberst, Jim James and Mike Mogis).
The fast-picking “The First Time I Ran Away” is an example of the prolific writing that Ward demonstrated on (my favorite albums) Transistor Radio and Configurations of Vincent.
“The first time I ran away I saw
Faces in the dreams I heard
Voices in the storm they say
-The First Time I Ran Away
Ward told NPR in an April 10, 2012 interview that he draws inspiration from old records and production styles.
“I get most of my inspiration from older records and older production styles,” Ward says, “and that ends up rearing its head in the records that I make. One of the great things about music is that it has the capability of time travel — you smell a certain smell in the room and it takes you back to your childhood. I feel like music is able to do that, and it happens to me all the time.”
I enjoy Ward’s style and his songwriting but sometimes trying to make sense of it can be incredibly challenging yet still rewarding. I believe “A Wasteland Companion,” is meant to be exactly that – something to listen to a we all spin out of control on this wacky world we live in. In “Watch the Show” Ward gives points of view around the production and effect of television on the American psyche.
“But now I want you to give me back,
The years that I have wasted,
Staring at these television screens,
And now that I have your attention,
Let me show you what I mean.”
-Watch the Show
Overall, fans of M. Ward should enjoy his latest record (released April 10, 2012) however first time listeners may get turned off by the dense themes. For them, I would recommend Duet for Guitars #2 or Transfiguration of Vincent.
Although Ward may not be the most well-known musician of my generation, he certainly has shown his talent and unique style that has captured my imagination and inspired a new generation songwriters.
You can buy A Wasteland Companion on iTunes
or on Spotify
I think M. Ward likes SoundCloud