M. Ward | A Wasteland Companion

Merge (2012)
By RYAN REED  |  April 3, 2012
3.5 3.5 Stars

"Jump inside this tidal wave with me," sings ash-voiced cherub Matt Ward on his stunning seventh album. A Wasteland Companion isn't a sonic tidal wave, per se — it's built on some of the folk troubadour's quietest, most intimate tunes in years. But where emotions are concerned, it pummels. For the past couple of years, Ward has been content as a gung-ho collaborator, most famously playing the mysterious craftsman behind Zooey Deschanel's obnoxiously perky twang-croon in She & Him. But Wasteland opener "Clean Slate" is the heartbreaking and spirit-cleansing sound of sonic isolation, fingerpicked acoustic guitars churning gloriously beneath husky vocal sweeps. "Now I don't know what it would take to make my heart back down," he sings — a lonely, distant vocal echo fading in the mist. A Wasteland Companion has its sprightly moments (the hooky, piano-powered pop of "Primitive Girl") and a mild studio indulgence: on "I Get Ideas," he tries classic pop balladry before digressing with a furious drum-kit assault and white-lightning guitar solo. As Wasteland cozily slides into its second half, we arrive mostly back where we started — just a couple of creaky acoustic guitars and that fallen-angel baritone. Sometimes less truly is more.

M. WARD + LEE RANALDO BAND| House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | May 8 @ 7 pm| All Ages | $25 | 617.693.2583

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