‘A Wasteland Companion’ continues M.Ward’s fulfilling solo career
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2012 00:06
M. Ward is perhaps best known for his work as half of the musical duo She and Him.
But Ward has proven to be a great force on his own.
Prior to the success of She and Him, Ward already had several critically acclaimed solo albums under his belt. There was the intriguing 2009 release “Hold Time,” as well as the earlier albums “Post-War” and “Transfiguration of Vincent,” which succeeded at putting Ward on the map of talented singer/songwriters from Portland.
Ward has been at it for over a decade and with eight albums to his credit and numerous contributions to other artists’ musical forays.
With his latests, aptly titled “A Wasteland Companion,” Ward has continued to succeed where many of his underground peers have failed.
While it is far from his most ambitious album, “A Wasteland Companion” hosts no shortage of the quirky, old-time sound that makes Ward unique. The songs on the album blend Ward’s trademark melancholy with his signature juxtaposition of upbeat vintage accompaniment.
The first track of the album is a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Sweetheart”. The song is brief but fulfilling; an excellent choice for an album opener, as it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Zooey Deschanel, the “she” of She and Him, joins him for “Me and My Shadow” which features enthusiastic piano playing and a cacophony of drums and clapping.
“I Get Ideas” is the most complex song of the album in terms of Ward’s guitar playing, and is coupled with unique back-up vocals and an atmospheric tone that stops just before it turns into full-on country. “Crawl After You” showcases the classic M.Ward style; with simple piano to open the song and a surprising explosion of electric guitar to end it.
The strongest songs off of “A Wasteland Companion” are also the most confusing in terms of lyrics. “Watch the Show” is – from what this listener can ascertain – a song about a disgruntled employee of a television station who commandeers station airtime in order to air his grievances and vaguely threaten the viewing public. “Watch the Show” is both troubling and enjoyable. The music contradicts the angry subject matter, which adds a tension that makes this a hard – but ultimately rewarding – track.
“Primitive Girl” is the gem of “A Wasteland Companion” — a pure Ward creation with comforting instrumentals and his trademark quirky lyrics that invite the listener to wonder what the song is actually about. The song captures the beauty of “A Wasteland Companion” as one is forced to be aware of the music, but not at the sake of its gratification. Listen below: