A Wasteland CompanionAlbum | M. Ward By Stewart Mason
Singer-songwriter returns to solo work.
Thirteen years and eight solo albums into his career, M. Ward by now has a handle on what he's capable of. And so A Wasteland Companion doesn't bother with niceties like a consistent mood or musical style: instead, Ward frees himself to dabble in a variety of sounds, confident that his increasingly sure-handed vocals and guitar playing will be enough of a throughline for the album to hang together. And, happily, they do: this relaxed and eclectic album is probably Ward's most immediately likeable solo work. Many of the songs feel like tributes, most obviously the wistful opener "Clean Slate (For Alex and El Goodo)," a heartfelt elegy to the late Alex Chilton, and "The First Time I Ran Away," with its ornate arrangement that makes it sound like an outtake from Nick Drake's Bryter Layter. Other tunes, such as the rockabilly pastiche "I Get Ideas" and the '70s FM pop vibe of the dreamy, harmony-driven "Wild Goose" and the ultra-catchy "Primitive Girl," are more subtle in their influences but just as memorable. Arguably, "Sweetheart," the duet with Ward's She and Him partner Zooey Descahanel, isn't far enough removed from the duo's own retro-pop confections to warrant being on this album instead of one of their own, but it's still a cheerful tune. And if that's the biggest complaint about an album, it's clearly a more-than-worthy effort.
|The First Time I Ran Away|