M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion
by Suzie Conway (Communications), published April 17th 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
A master collaborator as of late (Monsters of Folk, She & Him), M. Ward has finally come back to his solo roots with A Wasteland Companion. A bleak title hangs over this album, but Ward is in relative high spirits. Perhaps it’s the influence from his sticky-sweet She & Him partner Zooey Deschanel, but M. Ward certainly embraces his pop side on his eighth solo album.
Some of its elements are quite similar to his previous effort Hold Time. Both albums’ most radio-friendly songs feature strong duets with Deschanel. Hold Time’s “Never Had Nobody Like You” and now Wasteland’s “Sweetheart” feature her vocals prominently in the song. But it’s nice to see M. Ward be the center of attention on the album when his vocals so often take a backseat in She & Him.
Many of the songs on the first end of the album sound like they belong in some sort of indie sock hop time warp. However, some successfully stray away from this notion. The first single, “The First Time I Ran Away” has very few lyrics and lacks any sort of chorus, but is united by a soothing string of nonsense sounds and solid guitar work. The title track is a stand out, though not for its lyrical content, which is at best mundane. Rather, its intro has an acoustic guitar twang so commonly associated with country that somehow morphs into a sweet, Latin acoustic vibe by the end of the song. In under three minutes, the song completely changes its tone and attitude so subtly you can’t even tell it’s happening.
That starts a run of soft and mellow songs that blend well into one another. On the downside, it flows almost too well, making many of the songs hard to differentiate. But M. Ward puts together an easy-going pop record here. The album is strong as a whole, but highlights within it are too infrequent to make it an all-time best.
Recommended Tracks: Clean Slate, Sweetheart, A Wasteland Companion