Ear-friendly indie folk / alt-country from M. Ward
While I was playing “Hold Time” by M. Ward today and writing this post, my daughter asked me with a bit of a wrinkle in her nose, “Do you like this stuff, Daddy?” I told her I did, but I had to confess that M. Ward is perhaps a better songwriter than he is a singer. That said, most of these are his songs, and he delivers them with just the right feel. The album is simply assembled, but well produced. What “Hold Time” lacks in vocal polish, it more than makes up for in beautiful playing, brilliant lyrics, and pure emotional connection.
Matthew Ward is an indie folk / alt-country singer-songwriter from Portland, OR who goes by the stage name M. Ward. He has played with the likes of Beth Orton, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, and My Morning Jacket, and toured with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen. For all his exposure and ranging around, I had never heard of M. Ward. I spun “Hold Time” with no preconceived notions and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the simple, organic sound you can play when your songs are this strong. In particular, I liked these 5 tracks
- Blake’s View – This is a beautiful song about comforting someone who has lost a loved one. “You say you lost your one and only. Could it get any worse? I said, ‘Death is just a door. You’ll be reunited on the other side.’”
- Epistemology – A nice fat guitar lick is the heart of this track. The lyrics talk about what he learned in his Catholic school upbringing, but ultimately it’s a love song.
- One Hundred Million Years – This one is just Ward and his guitar. The vocal line feels like folk, but the guitar riff sounds bluesy. It’s short, simple, and pleasing.
- Rave On – Zoe Deschanel joins Ward on this fat, poppy Buddy Holly cover. It’s mainly acoustic guitar and Ward again, but the hand claps, broad harmony vocals, and reverbed sound make this one feel bigger. This is probably my favorite track on this disc.
- For Beginners – The lyrics Ward set to this simple pop melody are somewhat enigmatic, but they are still great because they are evocative and full of imagery.
Since I was unfamiliar with M. Ward, I thought I might be telling you about an up-and-comer today. Turns out “Hold Time” is Ward’s 7th release since his 1999 debut, “Duet for Guitars #2.” Apparently, I now have to go back and explore the rest of the catalog. If anyone reading has any favorites I have to check out, leave a comment. Thanks.