With his latest release A Wasteland Companion, M. Ward has once again demonstrated the incredible diversity and creativity that has built him such a loyal fan base over the years.
As if he didn’t already have enough to do (in addition to his solo work, Ward is the “Him” in She & Him, his duet project with New Girl star Zooey Deschanel; he’s also part of the band Monsters of Folk), Ward has created a well-put-together collection with this new effort, his first solo project in three years. The record plays as a sort of a tip-of-the-hat to the various genres and players that have influenced Ward. The result is a sort of historical musical journey, making the title A Wasteland Companion a fitting one.
Along with his standard country/folk vibe, Ward ventures a bit into pop, early rock and even swing. He covers jazz legend Louis Armstrong (“I Get Ideas”) and lo-fi singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston (“Sweetheart”). He even involves “Her” for a couple of tunes (Zooey Deschanel is featured on two songs). There are also some particularly moving moments in Ward’s original tunes (“Crawl After You” is my fave on the record). And even though you can hear everything from The Beatles to Marvin Gaye in the sounds of this album, Ward manages to keep it all cohesive, so it doesn’t seem scattered or fragmented. How he did it, I don’t know, but this hodgepodge somehow seems to make sense.
Anyone who has watched a film by director Quentin Tarantino can see the man’s deep love for the movies in the way his films play out—you can tell this is not just a guy who makes movies, but a guy who watches them. This is the same sort of vibe I get on the musical side from A Wasteland Companion. M. Ward isn’t just a musician—he’s a music lover. You can feel his love for music all over this record, and it makes you love music, too.
And most of all—it makes you love M. Ward’s music.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 stars (out of five)