Finally we have M Ward back on his own terms. The previously underground lo-fi genius has climbed into the mainstream with the critical acclaim of 2006’s Post-War and notable collaborations with American music glitterati such as Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis and Zooey Deschanel. His rise from obscurity has been somewhat of a slow ascension in comparison to today’s get guitar/write song/myspace/fame generation but his mission was a labour of love and this is evident in his sixth studio LP Hold Time.
‘Hold Time’ is a slightly less perky affair than his previous albums due its deep introspection and dark brooding as is evident in his musings on life in ‘Blake’s View’ and in the excellent duet with Zooey Deschanel in ‘Oh Lonesome Me’. These still are laconic summer songs at their essence but perhaps a little less time spent round the Prince of misery Conor Oberst might do him the power of good.
Elsewhere we have the traditional traits common to M Ward albums. His wistful whisper, his intuitive hooks and the retro style song writing come 21st Century. No better examples of this is the upbeat folk of ‘Stars of Leo’, the dream like minimalism of title track ‘Hold Time’ and the puzzling but welcome glam rock stomp of ‘Never Had Nobody Like You’.
Ward’s covers of Buddy Holly, Don Gibson and Frank Sinatra may suggest he is spreading his A grade material a bit thin with his numerous collaborations and not keeping enough of the gold for himself. To this we say balls; it’s an extraordinary album and the covers are apt and welcomed.