Singer-songwriter M. Ward
released his fifth album 8/22 on Merge Records
marks his first release with a full backing band and is his most focused and consistent album to date. This album has been in heavy rotation all Summer here at Moroccan Role headquarters and has probably one of my most listened-to records of the past few months.
M. Ward's singular brand of Americana is both easily accessible and technically sound. Deeply steeped in the folk tradition, Ward's music is not particularly ground-breaking or forward-thinking, but never comes across as derivative. It is this timeless quality, along with top-notch songwriting and musicianship, that make his records so enjoyable. Ward's hushed and slightly off-kilter vocal delivery is the focal point of Post-War
, but the album also features Rachel Blumberg of the Decemberists and the Thermals' Jordan Hudson handing percussion duties and My Morning Jacket's Jim James and alt-country chanteuse and New Pornographer Neko Case providing backing vocals. While his strong 2005 effort Transistor Radio
had a number of great tunes, its 15 tracks came across as a bit excessive, even with its modest 40 minute run-time. Post-War
is more carefully edited than his previous efforts (fewer instrumental interludes and transitional mood pieces) and contains more shifts in sonic dynamics-- making it a far more potent statement of Ward's talents.
Many critics have spun their wheels attempting to articulate the significance of Post-War
as a statement on the current political climate, but this is essentially an exercise in futility. These songs were undoubtedly inspired at least in part by our current war and its far-reaching implications in all of our lives, but this is no more than perhaps a very loose unifying theme for the mood of the record...this is not a concept album or concrete statement of Ward's politics. However, Ward did tell Billboard that two pieces of post-war literature, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five
, helped inspire the album's "coming home" theme, particularly when applied to the ongoing war in Iraq and our soliders returning from the conflict.
Having always existed somewhere outside current trends in music, M. Ward has quietly built an impressive body of work without much fan-fare or hype and Post-War
further solidifies him as a unique and compelling musician. Take this album for what is it-- an impressive work and career-highlight from one of our best modern American singer-songwriters.
M. Ward - "Poison Cup"
MP3: M. Ward - "To Go Home"
M. Ward - "Chinese Translation"Buy the album here.Listen to the entire album here.
********************************************************M. Ward Tour Dates:
1 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
2 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Plaza Club
5 - Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theatre
6 - Omaha, NE - Scottish Rites Hall
7 - Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Theatre
8 - Chicago, IL - Metropolis
9 - Columbus, OH - Little Brothers
11 - Toronto, Ontario - Mod Club
12 - Montreal, Quebec - La Sala Rossa
14 - New York, NY - Webster Hall
15 - Alexandria, VA - The Birchmere
16 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
17 - Somerville, MA - Somerville Theatre
18 - Charlottesville, VA - Satellite Ballroom
19 - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
20 - Nashville, TN - Belcourt Theatre
22 - Denton, TX - Hailey's
23 - Austin, TX - The Parish
25 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theatre
26 - Tempe, AZ - The Clubhouse
27 - San Diego, CA - San Diego Woman's Club
28 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theatre
29 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
30 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater