Friday, March 30, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1121: M. Ward

I’m at the front end of a long weekend and looking forward to it unfurling.

Disc 1121 is… Post-War
Artist: M. Ward

Year of Release: 2006

What’s up with the Cover? A bunch of banners hang against a washed out background. There are also a couple of random scenes – one with a building and one with a matador and a bull. The whole thing makes me want to put my hands on my hips and admonish M. Ward in my most matronly voice, “It looks like a warzone in here, Michael!” and demand he get his album cover in order before company arrives.

How I Came To Know It: This is yet another album from Paste Magazine’s “100 Top indie folk albums of all time” (this one came in at #28). I got a lot of music from that list.

How It Stacks Up:  M. Ward has nine solo albums, but this is the only one I have so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: 2 stars

I woke up early this morning hungry and hungover and took a walk. “Post-War” is soft indie folk and inoffensive background music for a hangover, but that’s about it. It definitely doesn’t deserve the lofty heights of #28 on Paste Magazine’s list.

So why did I buy it in the first place? Put simply, I fell for a kitschy little song called “Chinese Translation.” “Chinese Translation” is a sing-songy affair with a catchy melody and a sentimental story that reminds you that wisdom is mostly realizing that there aren’t easy answers. He says it better, but that’s the idea. While I still like the song, I liked it less after multiple listens and I’m starting to suspect it is a bit gimmicky.

I also liked “Requiem” which benefits from a cool guitar strum and a nice even emotional build, but outside of these songs I found “Post-War” largely forgettable. These are twee little songs that are fine at low volumes, but I expect more out of my music than that.

I could get into specifics, like the annoying decision to tack on about a minute of buzzing and old-timey radio onto the back end of “Right in the Head” but I’m not sure I would even remember that happening unless I was casting around for what was noteworthy enough for a music review. It was just hard to stay focused.

Part of the problem is M. Ward’s voice. It is light and airy and not bad, but it lacks the power and emotional gravitas to pull the songs up. The album suffers from the worst fault in indie music – it feels emotionally detached. It’s too bad, because M. Ward is a talented songwriter.

Ward is one half of the band She & Him, alongside Zooey Deschanel. I love “She & Him” and when I did tune back in from time to time it made wish Deschanel was singing. Her vocals are just what this stuff needs, but without it they don’t have enough juice to hold my interest. This morning before I wrote this I lay on the couch watching reruns of “New Girl” for a while. I think it was just me getting my fix of Zooey’s magic before I had to come back here and write about a record without her.

M. Ward has nine albums and after I discovered “Post-War” I delved into the collection to see if I liked anything else. I came up empty, which I should’ve taken a sign that I wasn’t picking up what he was putting down. Ah well, live and learn and appreciate him for his great work on “She & Him”. Then pass “Post-War” along to someone who will yawn less when listening to it.

Best tracks: Requiem, Chinese Translation

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