The Understatedness of M. Ward
If one desires a soundtrack for a rainy day when contemplative thoughts flood the mind of the listener and aimless walks around the house seem inevitable, M. Ward’s newest album, More Rain is the perfect companion for such a day. The types of musings and emotional reactions that one experiences while listening to this are foreshadowed in the soaking title. It is a record filled with songs drenched in introspective self loathing and the desire to wash away any past transgressions and transcend from one’s own self deprecating self into something greater and more.
Most listeners will have heard of M. Ward. Whether it be from She & Him, the duo he started with Zooey Deschanel or from the Monsters of Folk collaboration with Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes. While this is a solo record for Mr. Ward, the influences from all of these previous musical ventures reveal themselves as the album progresses.
Among the twelve songs on this record, there are undoubtedly some treasured tracks that are stirring both lyrically and instrumentally. “Girl From Conejo Valley” is one such song. There are nuances of Conor Oberst layered throughout the track. The eccentricities are executed thoughtfully and beautifully and in a way that only M. Ward could get away with. Other songs that explore the unconventional, but critical side of one’s own persona are “Slow Driving Man,” when Ward’s sadness about a car accident douses the listener with heartache, or “You’re So Good To Me” and “Pirate Dial” where acoustic guitar reigns supreme and She & Him fans will hear something familiar and comforting.
One of these songs, however, is not like the rest and that happens to be “Temptation.” This electronica sounding and echo heavy song provides a brief interlude from the slower, gloomy tracks on the record. While the track still retains a sense of melancholy, the listener has the opportunity to put aside the negative and find an uplifting undertone.
All of these songs, in one way or another, clearly show signs of influence from M. Ward’s other projects. If there are die hard She & Him fans, they will find satisfaction in this record. If there are people that only subscribe to a Monsters of Folk lifestyle, their hopes will not be dashed. While other musical tastes and experiences form this record, it is M. Ward who brings life to the songs and the subtlety they need in order to remain separate and different from his other work, which he successfully accomplishes.