The first time I heard M. Ward was when I was sent his version of Bowie's "Let's Dance" in 2002. I was instantly drawn to that voice. He sounded a little like Tom Waits, a little like Taj Mahal, and a little like Marc Bolan. The intimacy in his voice was something that I don't hear in a singer very often. I instantly dove right into Transfigurent of Vincent, End Of Amnesia and later, Transistor Radio. All three remain some of my favorite albums, and his latest endeavor might be one of the best he's done to date.
Post-Waris one of the strongest albums I've heard this year and will probably end up as one of my favorite of this brilliant singer songwriter's catalog. Ward brings in two of the most obvious and perfect guests for this album - Jim James and Neko Case. All three artists have a Midas touch and when put on the same album, nothing could possibly fail. But this album isn't about anyone other than M. Ward. His voice is a quiet storm that knows no boundaries.
M. Ward's cover of Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home" is a rush of energy that starts off sounding a little like Wilco's "Kamera." It's one of the highlights of the record and like always, Ward makes a cover into his own. And what could possibly make a perfect performance even more perfect? Neko Case. In my opinion, there's nothing better in this world than hearing a male voice and a female voice in perfect harmony, and this falls nothing short of perfection.
The title track, "Post-War," is a ballad filled with tremolo Rhodes keyboards, quiet drums, and a maraca. It's sparse and simple, but it's one of my favorite songs on the album because frankly it's one of his best vocal performances. His lyrics are melancholy and his voice lackadaisical. Ward sings, "I know when everything feels wrong. I've got some hard hard proof in this song."
Another one of the best parts about M. Ward is his Taj Mahal sound that I've loved on each album prior. De Old Folks At Home and Giants Steps have obviously had a large effect on Ward and the sparseness, vocal quality, and Dixieland sound that Mr. Mahal had on his influential late '60s albums show up again on Post-War. Songs like "Requiem," "Eyes on the Prize," "Rollercoaster," and "Afterword/Rag," take that aesthetic and turn it into something only M. Ward can do.
What's there to say about M. Ward that hasn't already been said? His voice is an earthquake, his guitar playing is hypnotic, and his songs are that of city nights and dusty old mining towns. He's a true hero of our music generation and he shows no signs of slowing down on Post-War.
"To Go Home"