Off Beat Music Guide

#5 : Best of 09 (so far) August 24, 2009

Filed under: Album Review,Best of 09 — bethstephenson84 @ 4:36 pm

m_ward-hold_time-artM. Ward – Hold Time

There is something mysterious about M. Ward. No, I am not talking about the fact that he goes by “M”, because M stands for Matt which is not that mysterious. I dunno…maybe it’s his soft voice or the elusive way he avoids being in the spotlight. Whatever the case, people like mysteries and all sorts of people like M. Ward. He is a song-writter at his core, and his talent in writting coupled with his love a blues and folk has created another beautiful album in his ever expanding collection.

Throughout M. Ward’s almost 10 year career, you can clearly chart not only his steady musical evolution, but his personal evolution into spirituality as well. The latter has shaped his folk albums into something that might make even the most die-hard hipster shake in his Chuck Taylors, but instead Ward has garnered even more acclaim for his work and created an even larger following. I believe that it’s the honesty and unpretentiousness of Ward’s questioning and endless pursuit of his faith that makes his latest effort Hold Time so charming and successful.

With his warm and cooing voice, Ward dazzles with songs ranging in topic from religion and transformation (“To Save Me”, “Fisher of Men”, “Epistemology”) to good, old-fashion love songs (“Hold Time”, “Rave On”, “Never Had Nobody Like You”). It is his songwriting that has turned him into the indie-pop superstar he is today, and the writing seems to always be his focus when creating new music. In numerous interviews, Ward references older country music and gospel artists as his musical influences, and true to his word, that’s exactly the vibe that can be felt on this latest album.

And after working with artists like Cat Power, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket, Ward collaborated with Zooey Deschanel to form the group She & Him which birthed an even more retro vibe to his music that carries over into Hold Time. Deschanel even appears on two of the tracks of the album, solidifying her influence on the creative direction of his music.

The songs on this album tend to be extreme; either slow and melancholy or lively and up-tempo, but not much in between. I have heard other attempts like this from different artists fail because of loss of vision or honesty, but those are attributes that Ward has in spades, and so Hold Time flows beautifully.

The sound is old; the equipment used to produce the album is old; and the lyrics evoke an older time; and yet this album is a breath of fresh air. My favorite time to listen to this album when I am getting ready for work in the morning because it’s toe-tapping rhythms and over-all positive outlook just make the rest of my day a bit shinier.

In a recent interview, Matt Ward said that his biggest influence was Johnny Cash and the Cash albums his father made him listen to as a child. In many ways Ward is a lot like Cash; he has the ability to transfer his spiritual convictions to his music without alienating his audience; and like Cash, he has the ability to make the most raw, stripped down sounds resonate. Most importantly though, Ward has Cash’s ability to musically evolve while staying true to the music he loves.

Listen: To Save Me


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