By now, it’s well-known just how much music requires a steady balance to fully take hold of. For his well-being ways, M. Ward has always been a charming musician because of his magnetic voice, as well as his stellar songwriting skills. As a crooning, soulful voice that sounds just as all-encompassing as it sweeps you away, Ward’s been involved in a slew of side projects while recognizing an honest discography of great music. For A Wasteland Companion Ward takes music to a richer level with songs that cover a sonic spectrum deep and wide with diverse layers: a true balance of terrific music.
The title track to the album is nestled deep in the middle A Wasteland Companion and it acts as a brief segue from an altogether brilliantly sequenced album. Ward is simplistically strong with a strumming guitar to backdrop his swooning vocals before ending with a string interlude. Eerie but solemnly, the music is fused with atmospheres and harp-like chords for a chilling effect. It’s well noted how much of a dreary feeling Hold Time possessed but on A Wasteland Companion’s brisk thirty-six minutes of music, it all sounds refreshing. As “Watch the Snow” creeps in – with a slinky electric guitar and stomping drums – Ward’s energy is much more upbeat and fortunately, the album succeeds with it.
Throughout these aforementioned side projects, Ward has worked with splendid musicians and artists that have surely left an impact on his current songwriting. Zooey Deschanel features on two songs early on A Wasteland Companion for wonderfully balanced female/male vocals. On “Me & My Shadow” Ward takes a roaring drum set and crashes it against the towering speed of the song’s menacing pulse and on “Sweetheart” Deschanel appears alongside Ward in the foreground. On the latter, the song’s sugary vocals match the timely chug of the carefree feel; later on “The First Time I Ran Away” everything sounds breathtaking because of the way the story blends with the atmospheric sounds so smoothly. Ward’s voice sounds just as enveloping as the storming drums and driving guitars; every balance is well-adjusted and executed leaving the music superbly crafted.
And while it’s surely a successful follow-up after the aforesaid 2009 album, Ward has been a consistent factor for quite some time. Hold Time was a much different time and A Wasteland Companion sounds like such a dissimilar period that comparisons seem entirely futile. It’s definitely warranted when Ward’s caliber is never in question and this new album capitalizes on many of the singer/songwriter’s strengths with songs that support his abilities. Songs like the driven “I Get Ideas” are further proof that Ward is fully-embraced and with a fantastic new outlook, it’s time to welcome the different times with praise.