Tonight on Letterman, M Ward makes his debut appearance on, well, Letterman, but also on TELEVISION. Bookers of television shows! Hear us out! Quit sleeping on good music! Book M Ward sooner faster earlier and more often. Call us! We will help you out! Or just go spend $5.99 at your favorite newsstand eight times a year - our advice is that cheap! In case, dear internets reader, you too have been sleeping, we wrote about M Ward way back when, and even though that story is about an album that's been around for a while, we stand behind it. M Ward's next record comes out next Tuesday, although you can get it on vinyl and on iTunes right now. And you can read about him for free after the jump.
Tune in with M Ward
By Will Welch
M Ward sings and plays guitar like someone who doesn’t mind if you pull up a chair and listen, but his eyes probably won’t come up and meet yours—his baseball hat’s pulled low and he’ll just be watching his fingers on the strings. He is quiet, unassuming and thoughtful, and his voice sort of ebbs and flows with a raspy sigh rather than rising and falling; it’s like he’s spent so much time alone with his guitar that he permanently sounds like he just woke up from sleeping in.
On a song called “Fuel For Fire” off his new record Transistor Radio, Ward sings, “Got 45s to play at night/ Got books to spend with every weekend/ The story’s always the same/ Got lonesome fuel for fire.” It’s a funny sentiment—a lonely song about how there aren’t any songs or books about anything other than being lonely. And he’s not so much celebrating that fact or regretting it as he is just helplessly taking part in it. Then the guitar steadies into a rhythmic shuffle and the vocals strike a high, bittersweet background “ahhhh” and a few of the loneliest off-kilter almost-chords echo out of the piano and soon enough you’re onto the next song about being in bed, sleepless, paranoid and still alone as shit.
Ward may have noted that every song seems to be about being lonely, but he’s resigned himself to that fact and found a wide variety of compelling ways to contribute to it. Transistor Radio has old-timey pop and indie rock and kawntry-fied salsa rock and riverboat boogie-woogie and an instrumental cover of Brain Wilson’s “You Still Believe In Me” and an interpretation of Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier”. It’s like Nostalgia AM Radio, and Ward meant it that way.
“Part of the idea for this record was to go back to songs that I’ve written about radio or songs inspired by radio or songs that I’d learned from radio,” Ward says. “And now I’m noticing this great divide in how I feel about radio in general. I grew up loving it, but right now there’s a great distaste for the way it’s being run and organized and performed.” Ward isn’t the type to set his jaw defiantly and launch into a long rant about payola or Clear Channel—he just seems uneasy with the steady disappearance of something that he holds dear to his heart. So by making a record that shows us what we’ve been missing, Ward asks an important question: whatever happened to our lonely fuel for fire?