Release Date: Aug 22, 2006
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Laconic California indie minstrel M. Ward's fifth offering is a thrift shop photo album filled with histories that may or may not have been, dust bowl carnival rides, and slices of sunlit Western Americana so thick that you need a broom to sweep up the bits that fall off of the knife. Ward makes records that sound like he just wandered in off the street with a few friends and hit the record button, but what would feel lazy and unfocused in less confident hands comes off like a tutorial in old-school songwriting and performance that hearkens back to the days of Hank Williams and Leadbelly if they had had access to a modern-day studio.
After four albums that matched M Ward's warm, vocal rasp with his folksy guitar finger-picking, the Californian has made what he's calling his "first band record". Perhaps inspired by his collaborative work on Jenny Lewis's marvellous Rabbit Fur Coat, Ward coaxed several musician pals into the studio; the result is his most striking album yet. Ward's dusty, country-blues is lent an almost boisterous edge by guests including Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Neko Case, Jordan Hudson (the Thermals) and Rachel Blumberg (the Decemberists).
The title cut of M. Ward's fifth full-length starts in a hushed, melancholy way, building like smoke out of brushed snares and choked hi-hat chinks, a luminous keyboard line the only melodic element. Over this quietly riveting background, comes the voice, thoughtful and smoky at the corners, sepia-toned, belonging somehow to a man much older than the 31-year-old Matt Ward.
Given its title and M. Ward's abilities as a wordsmith, it's tempting to assume Post-War is his scathing treatise on Bush the Younger's America. It's not. Its only politics are the sort manifested daily in our most intimate relationships. Ward's evildoers aren't terrorists, craven politicians, or ….