Release Date: Mar 4, 2016
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Possibly the only thing more nuanced than an M. Ward record is the typical review of a M. Ward record. Bob Dylan, a slightly older fossil, has been gifting critics golden subject matter for decades, such as his motorcycle accident, his religious conversion, and most especially, his rather bizarre decision to package a cow chip he found from his farm and officially package it as 1988’s Down in the Groove.
With his static-dusted voice and predilection for early rock antiquity, M. Ward has always come across as one of his generation's more understated bards. Interpreting the ever-deepening subtleties of his catalog generally requires repeated listens, and such is the case with his ninth solo effort, the appropriately moody More Rain. Easing in with a minute-long rainstorm soundscape, he leads off with the dreamy acoustic gallop of "Pirate Dial," a genial folk-pop hymn perfectly suited for the patient rotations of a vinyl long-player.
First imagine a treasure island, its salty beach lined with palm trees swaying slowly in the sea breeze: a pirate ship approaches, ominous in the distance. Then imagine that the whole island is slightly obscured due to a steady grey rain thrumming down on it. Finally, observe that the scene is actually a dusty old picture in front of which sits a pale man, strumming songs inflected with doo-wop, rock’n’roll and fuzzy indie.
More Rain starts with silence. Then the patter of rain on tarp slowly reintroduces us to Matthew 'M' Ward's lightly graveled croon for the first time in four years. And as he sings "it's alright if you don't mind, it's alright if you do" during opener "Pirate Dial" you're reminded and reassured of the beauty he is capable of creating. It feels like finding an old friend.
M. Ward’s music has always contained the dusty imprints of decades of radio hits from all sides of the dial. The Portland, Oregon-based singer/songwriter has made a respectable career out of tastefully mining the styles and sounds of the past, and imbuing them with his own modern, understated flair (with the occasional dash of Zooey Deschanel to appeal to the commercial masses).
M. Ward has spent much of his career defining and refining his particular sound. Aside from his collaborations (such as She & Him with Zooey Deschanel and the Monsters of Folk project), he’s been consistent, offering a string of indie-folkish albums high in quality, but low on surprises. It’s been fine; new releases haven’t quite felt redundant, but Ward creeps close to that place.
Ok M. Ward, we get it. You're an earnest, serious songwriter. Does that mean you need to spell every quirky little thing out for us so often?It's a grating habit that the Portland, Oregon-hailing songsmith indulges too often on More Rain, his eighth studio album. The worst such instance occurs on ….
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In 2006, it was hard to forecast that Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, and Matthew Ward would be this generation's go-tos for conventional folk-pop structure. Ten years on, however, it seems like a no-brainer. A Midwestern supergroup was covering 'Handle with Care', and were doing a harmonious job conjuring the Wilbury's classic malaise, after all.
If you’re scanning these pages for a record your granny might be into, this is the one. Also known for his work alongside Zooey Deschanel as the other half of She & Him, M. Ward is a seasoned and remarkably consistent songsmith of cosy, classic-leaning pop. His latest, inspired by Oregon’s equally dependable climate, is decisively easygoing.
M. Ward has admitted that the whole point of More Rain was to be the sort of thing to listen to when the weather is shit. As such, he's made a collection that attempts to persistently and gently wash away the negativity from, well, everything. The opening minute of pattering rain sets the mood as Ward dives headfirst into a collection of songs trying to square the big-picture ugliness of the world with its tiny details of everyday beauty.
M. Ward carries the past around with him like a big, gaudy sheriff badge hanging off his shirt pocket. There’s no looking past it — the Oregon cowboy is a self-appointed custodian of a bygone era. Since the late ’90s, he’s been laying down rickety guitar lines on antique equipment, cutting a lengthy discography that plays like a brittle old scrapbook of Appalachian folk, Nashville country, Creedence swamp rock, stomping bluegrass, and a dozen other throwback genres.
Certain artists raise a simple question: Can you blame someone for making the same album over and over again if that album is always really good? AC/DC, The Ramones, and Motörhead have all implored listeners to ask that question, and there’s a strong case to be made that M. Ward does as well. For over 15 years, he’s been giving the world reliably beautiful, thoughtful folk music that seems like it was transported to present day from, say, 1939.