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A new persepective means a return to form

Published 11:30am Sunday, April 1, 2012

M. Ward returns to form with a new perspective on his first solo album since 2009.

Ward’s “A Wasteland Companion” is beautifully rustic and consistent — not to mention short at just under 37 minutes.

The length doesn’t tarnish the indie-folk singer/guitarist’s laid-back charm on “A Wasteland Companion.”

Listening to “A Wasteland Companion,” you almost want to buy it on vinyl, lightly scratch it to add some pops and cracks to the sound and then listen to it.

That doesn’t mean the sound is off or incomplete. Every note harkens back to the early days of rock ‘n’ roll when the notes were muffled by dirt and dust.

Perfect vocals and clean guitars are not the end game.

Take “Me and My Shadow,” which opens with on a simple note with Ward’s echoing vocals and blossoms to hints of a showdown and film noir before peaking in delightfully distorted guitars and bass with pianos and instruments appearing and disappearing.

After playing with singer Zooey Deschanel as one half of She & Him, Ward maintains the throwback, old school mentality on his seventh studio album.

However, he is able to break free — err, mostly — from the cheeriness/sweet misery that pervades through She & Him.

Ward maintains a gritty honesty through “A Wasteland Companion.”

“Watch the Show” plays in the shadows like a demented surf tune with Ward singing to late night TV watchers of hijacking the channel with lyrics like “Remember when I was back in high school / I never thought I’d stoop so low.”

There’s plenty of darker lyrics and moments on “A Wasteland Companion,” but the pervading theme is redemption, with plenty of loss and regret mixed in.

On the beautiful “Wild Goose,” ward sings of a lost love with aching harmonies.

Ward’s throwback folk sounds a bit distant at times, and it takes a few listens to truly be drawn in.

But Ward’s blend of honest lyrics and dynamic tunes make for a heartfelt album that equals — if not surpasses — the level of emotion on the two She & Him albums.

 


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