Artist: M. Ward
Title: “A Wasteland Companion”
Format: NPR First Listen (Spotify)
The title paints Portland, Ore., singer/songwriter M. Ward’s seventh studio effort, “A Wasteland Companion,” as the soundtrack to a drive on highways past the cornfields of middle America. Much of it feels apropos for that mood.
After five songs that feel like familiar Ward territory, things get cooking with “The First Time I Ran Away.” The comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel are hard to ignore as Ward plays a rolling, gentle riff against a bouncy drum and bass beat.
It launches a three-song stretch that defines “Wasteland,” including the title track, which sounds as barren and desolate as its name.
“Watch the Show” kicks things up a notch, a brooding country folker with echoing drums and vocals, describing a man from the editing room taking over the TV.
Sadness and isolation hang on these songs. “Wild Goose” evokes a sense of longing without really saying much, an unusual notion for a musician who relies so heavily on his distinct voice.
If this is M. Ward’s journey through the heartland, it’s a lonely, desperate one.
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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.