Artist: M. Ward
Title: “Transistor Radio”
Format: Compact disc (Spotify)
For a $3 grab out of the discount rack, M. Ward’s “Transistor Radio” was a fine return on my investment.
As the Portland, Ore., singer/songwriter’s fourth studio effort, “Transistor Radio” seems like a stroll through many sounds of the 20th century, such as the country drawl of “Paul’s Song,” the blues of “Big Boat” or even an instrumental cover of The Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe in Me” to open the record.
While “Transistor” sounds like something of a concept record, if it is one, it does so unwittingly. The disc is tracked well, swelling to the more hectic songs in the middle, but lets Ward’s honey tenor carry the front and back ends of the record.
The finest efforts here include “Four Hours in Washington,” which depicts a sleepless night, and “I’ll Be Yr Bird,” which could be the soundtrack to a film’s sad closing montage.
While “Transistor Radio” is not without its highlights, the notion of imitating old-time radio sounds is not a departure from much of Ward’s pre-”Transistor” output.
“Transistor” winds up feeling like a tune up for “Post-War,” which expanded his palette as well as sharpened it, rather than a required platter in its own right.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.