M. Ward – Hold Time

February 19, 2009

mwardWhen I first heard M. Ward’s take on blues and folk music at the beginning of the decade, I was struck by its often otherworldly quality, music that one might’ve been pulled down during a séance. It was haunting, lyrical and a bit eerie at times. Eight years later, Ward’s music still has those qualities from time to time, though he’s mostly left any lo-fi feel it once had behind him awhile back, which isn’t a bad thing. It is worth remarking on, however, as Hold Time is his most elaborately produced album yet, with copious strings and some synths layered over the usual electric and acoustic guitars. The title track even pushes the latter two into the background, to nice effect. The tone is generally pretty weighty, with a number of the tracks directly addressing spiritual and existential issues, i.e. “Fisher Of Men” and “Epistemology.” There are some fun tracks, too, notably “Never Had Nobody Like You” with its glam rock beat, and a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” both tracks duets with She & Him collaborator Zooey Deschanel. And then there’s the insanely catchy “To Save Me,” done with Jason Lyle. (The fourth duet is the less successful cover of “Oh Lonesome Me” with Lucinda Williams.) All in all, this is a pretty solid release for Ward, both a reiteration of past musical themes and a progression forward, which I imagine longtime fans will have no problem embracing. Standout cuts: “Never Had Nobody Like You,” “Hold Time,” “To Save Me” and “Stars Of Leo.”



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