A Wasteland Companion

A Wasteland Companion

by M. Ward


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Matthew Stephen Ward's seventh studio album was recorded in eight different studios and boasts 18 guest musicians, including Rachel Cox (Oakley Hall), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), Tom Hagerman (Devotchka), Tobey Leaman (Dr. Dog), and She & Him's X chromosome Zooey Deschanel, just to name a few. Such a heroic production itinerary should surely yield appropriately epic results, but Ward's Wasteland Companion feels as organic and understated as anything he's done thus far. Most of the 12 songs flirt with ambient textures, but they remain firmly imbued with the breezy, tape-saturated patina that permeated early works like Transfiguration of Vincent and Transistor Radio. For the most part, outside of the slight but catchy "Primitive Girl" and the driving "Sweetheart," he eschews many of the pop tics that colored 2009's Hold Time for meandering, dustbowl folk arrangements ("Clean Slate"), galloping, country-gospel motifs ("Pure Joy"), and Tin Pan Alley nostalgia ("There's a Key"). Ward's naturalistic approach and consistently retro vibe work best when he lands somewhere in the middle of it all, as is the case with the lush and timeless sounding "Wild Goose" and the bluesy title track, both of which appear in the album's spare and satisfying second half. Fans who were wondering if Ward's mainstream successes would yield a stylistic sea change can rest easy, as his signature, sepia-tone demeanor, for better or for worse, remains steadfast.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/10/2012
Label: Merge Records
UPC: 0673855043326
catalogNumber: 433
Rank: 250996

Album Credits

Performance Credits

M. Ward   Primary Artist,Guitar,Piano,Vocals
John Parish   Percussion,Marimbas
Steve Shelley   Percussion
Howe Gelb   Piano
Jon Graboff   Pedal Steel Guitar
Mike Mogis   Organ,Orchestra Bells
Scott McPherson   Percussion
Adam Selzer   Bass
Mike Coykendall   Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion
Tom Hagerman   Strings
Jordan Hudson   Percussion
Toby Leaman   Bass
Rachel Cox   Background Vocals
Zooey Deschanel   Vocals
Amanda Lawrence   Violin
Susan Sanchez   Background Vocals
Tyler Tornfelt   Bass
Nathan "Jr." Andersen   Piano

Technical Credits

Daniel Johnston   Composer
Larry Crane   Engineer
John Parish   Engineer
Tom Schick   Engineer
Chris Schultz   Engineer
Lenny Sanders   Composer
Dorcas Cochran   Composer
Mike Mogis   Engineer
Autumn de Wilde   Cover Photo
Pierre de Reeder   Engineer
M. Ward   Composer,Producer
Mike Coykendall   Engineer
Erik Wofford   Engineer
Rob Jones   Text Layout
Dana Bruington   Artwork
Alistair Chant   Engineer

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A Wasteland Companion 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
poughkeepsiejohn More than 1 year ago
Matthew Ward---or M. Ward as he calls himself---seems like a very busy guy these days. Composing eerie scores for TV shows like "True Blood". Working as one-half of the playful duo known as She & Him with actress Zooey Deschanel. And making the occasional solo album once in a while. "A Wasteland Companion" sounds like the work of a seminal, roving musician of yesteryear, which is what Ward strives to be. In this case, he nearly succeeds. Part of the reason for that is that Ward is a fantastic musician with a deep, weary voice. His original material, particularly the catchy "Primitive Girl", is sounding more hit-friendly these days. However, he also knows as good song when he hears it---such as Daniel Johnston's "Sweetheart", which Ward (and Zooey Deschanel) turn into a gleeful romp. Steve Shelley, the drummer of Sonic Youth, pops up here as well. And Ward even pays tribute to the late Alex Chilton (or as he calls him "El Goodo") on the poignant opener, "Clean Slate". This is not to say that Ward has abandoned his eerieness. Some of it comes through on the reality TV insanity of "Watch The Show" and the slitheringly "Crawl After You". An entire album of this stuff would have sounded like the soundtrack of "True Blood". Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. Still, Ward shows no signs yet of slowing down and an album like this one will always be welcomed.