M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion (Merge) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

M. Ward

A Wasteland Companion

Merge

Apr 17, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The timeless quality always inherent in M. Ward's music abounds here on the songwriter's seventh solo album, and rather than a wasteland, this feels more like slices of a dreamscape. Reflective, calculated, and ultimately seductive, A Wasteland Companion drives one's senses through a quiet maelstrom of compressed energy. With sunny songs abutting thoughtful ruminations, it's not a fluid collection. Many of the Portland-based artist's friends contribute to his journey through seemingly endless sunsets: She & Him partner Zooey Deschanel and Monsters of Folk bandmate Mike Mogis share their musical talents along with more than a dozen others. Yet what stands out is still M. Ward's gorgeous fingerpickings.  

"There's a key on my piano that I play for you," he croons in "There's a Key," yet we don't hear a bit of piano on this intimate acoustic love song, where licks of serene guitar stretch out for miles. It's not until the subsequent song, "Crawl After You," that the piano melds with a growing buzz of violins and feedback-stained guitar. Thrashing forward in a rare fit of rage, "Me and My Shadow" takes an old folk tale and layers it with vigorous shredding.

After years of sharing the stage with Deschanel, it's a true revelation to hear M. Ward take back the full spotlight. He's once again stepping forward with his world-weary voice and lyrical dexterity. But "Sweetheart," where she duets with him, is undeniably charming. It starts with the chorus, "You have a sweet heart, sweetheart/You have a nice smile, baby/You drove me crazy down lover's lane," and only gets better from there.

Thematically and musically, A Wasteland Companion often sounds like it represents a more innocent time in America's history. And that's the beauty. This is music that could apply to any age or era, a pure soundtrack for a long road ahead or a journey back in time. Either way, this dreamscape is one worth riding into the sunset. (www.mwardmusic.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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