M. Ward


M. Ward’s songs may sound like transmissions from bygone eras, but they’re far too spirited to resemble musty Smithsonian artifacts. Like his highly acclaimed 2004 release, Transistor Radio, Ward’s music is a love song to the eclectic radio programming of yesteryear, bucolic melodies filtered through modern lo-fi sensibilities. But with assistance from Neko Case, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and Norfolk & Western’s Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg, Post-War features more uptempo songs and a fuller band sound, relying more on keys and percussion than Ward’s Fahey-esque guitar virtuosity. Digging into his bag of Tin Pan Alley blues, country shuffles and minor-key rock, Ward’s weather-beaten voice — a smoky croak coated in honeyed reverb — relays wistful tales of broken hearts and searches for grace in an indifferent world. Ward continues to put the lie to the idea that traditional song structures have been mined for all they’re worth — in his hands, they continue to dazzle. 4 stars