Album Review M. Ward - Hold Time

There is a natural, unforced element that pervades all of Ward’s work.

M. Ward

certainly wears his influences well on ‘Hold Time’, his sixth studio record. From the subtle lyrical nod to David Bowie’s ‘Absolute Beginners’ on opening track ‘For Beginners’, to the more overt glam influence of the Mick Ronson-like riff on ‘Never Had Nobody Like You’, he captures the sound of various radio singles from different eras rather easily on this polished, sophisticated work. It’s certainly a more expansive album for Ward, with lush but still subtle production from Bright Eyes cohort Mike Mogis. And it features some immense hooks, especially on ‘To Save Me’ (featuring Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle) and ‘Epistemology’.

But when you have a guitar player and lyricist as talented as M. Ward, you don’t really need to dress the songs up that much, which makes the more delicate numbers like the gorgeous title track and ‘Oh, Lonesome Me’ (featuring Lucinda Williams) work so well. His wistful voice and muted guitar work are enough to carry any song, and Mogis is smart to leave some of these songs relatively unadorned. While the later song does drag on a bit, it’s tough to deny the appeal of the two vocalist’s floaty call and response on this heartbreaking track. Ward’s typically understated nature is finally starting to pay off, with him finally getting some much deserved recognition for his collaboration with Zooey Deschanel on last year’s excellent ‘She & Him’ record. And the two of them reprise that winning formula here on the playful, amped up ‘Never Had Nobody Like You’ and a bouncy cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave On’.

There is a natural, unforced element that pervades all of Ward’s work, and this album is no exception. The record is packed with unassailable melodies and catchy, soaring choruses, but, at the same time, the album’s reach never really exceeds its grasp, and it remains a tightly focused, compact work that is bound to both win over some new fans, and keep Ward’s old fans happy. His songwriting remains astute and insightful, and the timeless nature of the songs found on ‘Hold Time’ are most assuredly intentional, as the title alludes to. Good songs can come from any era or genre, and M. Ward proves that he can write a song that could just as easily have played on your Grandfather’s radio in the 50s as it could be playing on your iPod.

 

Tags: M. Ward, Album Reviews, Reviews

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