MusicRecord Reviews

M. Ward

It’s been three years since M. Ward’s previous solo album, but homeboy’s been busy. Those years were crammed with world touring and three album releases for other projects. And this latest LP—recorded in eight different studios across the U.S. and England and involving 18 musicians (from notable bands like Devotchka, Bright Eyes, Giant Sand, Sonic Youth, Dr. Dog, etc.)—was meant to reflect an increasingly peripatetic life. But M. Ward does what M. Ward does, and his sensibility in stretching Americana’s possibilities remains a trusty anchor.

Outstanding tracks include the breezy nobility of “Primitive Girl,” the whispery insistence of “Watch the Snow” and the plaintively elegant, string-laden piano ballad of “Crawl After You.” Of particular note are the pair of songs featuring his She & Him partner-in-crime Zooey Deschanel; “Me & My Shadow” turns an interstate folk song into a noisy rocker and “Sweetheart” is a lively, lovely merge of doo-wop and vintage country.

M. Ward first started earning cred as an indie folkie, but he’s much more than that now. And his trick is taking picturesquely worn American music traditions and re-contextualizing them with broader instrumentation and a current indie-rock lens to smartly symphonize history and modernity.