A Vivascene Feature Article by Brian Miller
Vivascene rating 8.5
One delicious record is M. Ward‘s A Wasteland Companion, suffused with the characteristic indie-folk charm that is one half of She & Him, his erstwhile partnership with Zooey Deschanel that has produced an inordinate number of irresistible songs. Here he is on his own, for the most part, with his singular take on heartache, disaster and triumph. Zooey does make an appearance or two, notably on “Sweetheart” but for those of you who have been waiting for another M. Ward solo album, it has arrived and it’s damnably good, particularly the explosive “Me and My Shadow”, which is to these ears is as inventive, imaginative and listenable as it gets. That song alone is almost enough to make one forget that the entire album is only 36 minutes long.
Standout tracks: the opener, “Clean Slate”, a tale of self-realized redemption with some tantalizing guitar lines and a very understated approach. And yes, “Me and My Shadow”, which is the highlight and suggests the current M. Ward has something different about him, something beyond his usual truth, beauty and tenderness that needs to explored further. And indeed he delivers in “Watch The Show”, a display of alienation reminiscent of someone you probably went to high school with and never thought of again. That little drama is followed, surprisingly, by the ethereal beauty of “There’s A Key”. Then there’s the title track, which hardly an impression on the first listen, but it’s far from a throwaway; you may even claim “A Wasteland Companion” as your own favourite. Another stunner is “The First Time I Ran Away” – an elliptical dream that captures, indelibly, the haunting experiences of one’s childhood.
And what’s up with “Primitive Girl” ? – the first single from the album – it’s a perfect pop confection that one wouldn’t think belongs on the record at all, but that would be misjudging M. Ward. He has his own tricks, some of which are up his sleeve and some of which are perfectly obvious, though no less indispensable.
You may stream the entire album A Wasteland Companion here:
He’s a great talent, is Matthew Stephen Ward, an unpredictable mix of Tim Hardin, Harry Nilsson and Kris Kristofferson, though none of those great singers and writers ever ended their albums with a song as radiant as “Pure Joy”. You need to be a fan of several different genres to appreciate the full range and subtlety of his compositions. Left us wanting much more from him than the 36 minutes of this all-too-short album.
Watch: “Primitive Girl”
Watch: “The First Time I Ran Away”