It’s been an eventful three years since Matthew "M." Ward last gave free
rein to his solo muse on 2009’s much heralded Hold Time. Ward, doing a brisk
Indie Rock business under his first initial and last name, has been almost
psychopathically busy in the interim, from recording and touring with Connor
Oberst, Jim James and Mike Mogis under their Monsters of Folk banner and
performing similar duties with Zooey Deschanel in their cliquey-cool guy/girl
duo, aptly christened She & Him.
Given those high profile distractions,
it’s amazing Ward found time to follow up the best album in his estimable
On his eighth full length album, A Wasteland Companion, Ward was
definitely influenced by the tremendous amount of traveling that devoured his
recent schedule, forcing him to consider the literal and figurative things he
would either keep or jettison in the process. As a result, Ward simplified his
approach in writing and recording without sacrificing the qualities that have
made him cultishly appealing for the past dozen or so years.
shimmers like a lost George Harrison/Brian Wilson Surf samba and “Me and My
Shadow” is a Folk ode-meets-lo fi Garage Rock rave-up (both featuring Deschanel
on accompanying vocals), while “I Get Ideas” has the energetic swing of a
collaboration between Brian Setzer and Jimbo Mathus. The title track has the
expressive nod of front porch Delta Blues and “Watch the Show” takes a sonic
cue from Tom Waits and Robbie Robertson as Ward spits out an indictment on
television from one of its faceless proles.
Ward’s noirish spin on Rockabilly,
Pop, Blues and Folk on A Wasteland Companion is haunting, compelling and
perfectly in keeping with his quirkily brilliant body of work.