Matthew Ward is known for his numerous side projects. He is in the super group Monsters of Folk with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Ward is also one half of She & Him with everybody’s favorite quirky girl, Zooey Deschanel.
Ward, who goes by the stage name M. Ward, is also an established solo artist. He just released his eighth solo album “A Wasteland Companion.”
“A Wasteland Companion” is a diverse album that hops around from country-folk to pop ballads to covers. The distinct variations in sound make the record intriguing, yet sometimes erratic.
“Clean Slate” opens the album with a slow track, highlighting the acoustic guitar and Ward crooning, “Cause I only have to wait a little while / Before I / Get my / Clean slate.” It is a really soothing opening track for the album.
“Primitive Girl” is a complete turnaround from the opening track. The song puts Ward in front of the piano, producing an upbeat, pop-style sound. The song eventually fades into a quiet whisper and then transitions seamlessly into the next song.
Fans of She & Him will be glad to hear that Zooey Deschanel is not entirely absent from the record.
She makes an appearance on “Me and My Shadow” and “Sweetheart,” the third and fourth tracks on the album, respectively.
“Sweetheart” is a cover of Daniel Johnston’s song. Covers are fairly common on the record considering “I Get Ideas” is also a cover of the Louie Armstrong song. Ward is clearly trying to traverse around different genres, while paying homage to his musical influences.
“The First Time I Ran Away” is the first single off the album. It features sublime acoustic guitars and an engaging drum beat on the toms. The song is one of the best tracks on the album, and the single’s background choir really shines, creating a glum but memorable track.
Ward excels when he does less. Some of the best songs on the record are when he plays his signature acoustic folk tunes, not when he attempts to create pop numbers. Songs like “A Wasteland Companion” and “Pure Joy” are some of the better tracks on the album, despite their simplicity.
The record sometimes lacks a certain cohesion that could transform it into a superb album, which is probably a reflection that it was recorded in eight different studios. The back half of the album does get much more cohesive as it really sticks more to the folk heritage of Ward’s sound, abandoning the pop sound found in some earlier
The album is extremely short, coming in around only 36 minutes. Not a single track surpasses the four-minute mark and the average length is right around three
“A Wasteland Companion” is an enjoyable record that really shines in its simpler moments. Though some songs feel out-of-place in the context of the whole album, they are still good on their own. Its short length makes “A Wasteland Companion” a quick and easy listen that is certainly worth checking