M Ward – Hold Time

holdRating: ★★★★☆

M Ward has won over fans this past year for his role in She and Him, which is deserved accolades, but lets not forget that the man on his own has always been able to record some of the more intimate bedroom listens of the decade.  He returns now with Hold Time, his first solo outing since releasing Post-War.

Opener “For Beginners” is the perfect album opener for this album, as the cooly calm vocals hum gently over the guitar, being strummed as if a slow train were approaching.  Ladies and gents, this is a slow train coming, so sit back and enjoy.

There is just something about the way that the man records his albums that seems to win you over every single time.  Based on his previous confessions, its easy to see here that he adores recording of the olden days, and he treats his own songs with similar care, coating each tune in pleasant melodies and a general warmth.  Yet, it never sounds dated when he pulls it off.  Unless, of course, he covers “Rave On” by Buddy Holly. His version is a little less clean than the original, as a little feedback seems to suit his aims purpose.  Where he lacks in the precision of the original, he makes up for it in his presentation.  M. Ward owns this song, and recreates it with a new spin, all the while holding onto the blueprint of the original. The song also features Ms. Deschanel, one of the two songs she guests on throughout the duration of this album.

For some reason, it’s really hard to escape the feeling that the singer of these songs, our narrator, belongs in the present day.  It’s as if every song, although based on modern times, is rooted firmly in the history of the past.  Perhaps this is why it always seems so intimate as you listen to the sounds coming out of the stereo.  Take “Fisher of Men,” which seems to have that same train-track guitar plucking.  It’s as if the whole song was sung in camaraderie around a campfire at a work camp during the Depression.

“Oh Loneseome Me” offers us yet another great collaboration, this time with Lucinda Williams.  Lyrically, it offers a glimpse at a lost love, and having to confront the free time on one’s hands afterwards.  But, the vocals on behalf of both artists really do remove every ounce of emotion from the listener, which always makes for a perfect song.

Interestingly, there are some genuinely upbeat moments here too, like “To Save Me” and “Epistemology.”  The repertoire that the man has at his hands allows for a great deal of variance throughout the entirety of this album.  At the core, his voice is able to adapt to varying levels of instrumentation, always holding onto the more personal level of presentation.  With each twist and turn, you hear an old friend, or even grandparent, softly rocking you to sleep.

As the beginning of the year take off, lets all hope that M. Ward gets loads of accolades for his endeavors as a solo musician with vast talent, and not just for his wonderful collaborations.  Hold Time will surely be a step towards that accomplishment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-never-had-nobody-like-you.mp3]

Download: M Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You [MP3]

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