Artist: M Ward
Title: A Wasteland Companion
Label: Bella Union
Matthew Stephen Ward, the singer more affectionately known as M Ward will release his first album in three years entitled A Wasteland Companion. Ward has been involved in two albums since the release of his last solo album Hold Time; as one half of the duo She & Him with Zooey Deschanel and with Monsters of
The busy man’s sixth album was inspired by his transient lifestyle of late, he explains “Between now and when I made Hold Time there has been a lot of traveling which requires a lot of reckoning with what to leave behind and what to carry – material and otherwise – and thinking about what I want versus what I
need, creatively and otherwise. I wanted to get a reflection of that on the album.It was a process of stripping away my security blanket, which is the same four walls I always record in.”
The twelve tracks were made with eighteen musicians and recorded in eight different studios in Portland, Omaha, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin and Bristol (UK). Artists include Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis on the organ, She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel on vocals, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on percussion and
Devotchka’s Tom Hagerman on strings.
“Clean Slate” opens the album with a folky feel, squeaky guitar strings and lovely instrumental interludes between Ward’s husky voice as he sings; “I only had to wait a little while to get my clean slate”. Strings take centre stage again in “Me & My Shadow” but are accompanied by more haphazard, angry vocals from Ward.
“Primitive Girl” is one of the more upbeat tracks, piano chords mix with female backing vocals towards the end before keyboard sounds and a more down tempo finish. “Sweetheart” is the necessary cutesy love song of the album, complete with oohs, ahs and hand claps. Ward sings “You have a sweet heart, you have a nice smile, you drive me crazy” before Zooey Deschanel accompanies; “take my hand we’ll go walking, moon and stars are shining in the sky”.
A Wasteland Companion’s strengths are in it’s instrumental compositions. “Crawl After You” is filled with delicately arranged piano and violin whilst title track “A Wasteland Companion” is another slower piece with samples of atmospheric wind noises to end. “The First Time I Ran Away” is imaginative story telling over quiet drum beats and strings. It’s these folky tales and string arrangements that
bring excitement to A Wasteland Companion, a perfect accessory for a weekend in the woods.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.