M. WARD - BEST ALBUM OF 2016 SO FAR?
M. Ward is a Portland-based singer-songwriter - a description that will either worry you, or not. Eyewear, the blog thinks he may have just under-the-radar delivered one of the best albums of 2016, already. Ward is known to his fans, and has been making albums like this, more or less, for 15 years; this time, he is accompanied, as all reviews elsewhere also note, with subtle support from Neko Case, Peter Buck and k.d lang - and indeed the overall effect is a bit like a languorous twangy lang album, or the quietest R.E.M. LP ever.
With effortless charm and aplomb, More Rain manages to capture precisely what made albums by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, The Blue Nile, and more recently Boy & Bear so impactful - the holy trinity of superb vocals with a hint of doo-wop, expertly deployed Americana melodies just shy of early Smiths (with some country echo-chamber), and whip-smart lyrics easily the equal of prime Elvis Costello.
With simple but effective production that balances a sense of authenticity with stylish panache, the 12 tracks (the opener is mostly rain sounds; there is a Beach Boys cover) establish a likeable, never-too-melancholy slow-paced mood that feels timeless, and could be set on replay for dreamy hours or days, rain or shine.
The standouts are early on: synthy 'Girl From Conejo Valley' and stunner 'Confession' - the first songs I have heard in the past few months that sound like they will be played (without irony) in university dorm rooms in 25 years, with a candle, red wine bottle half-killed, and some weed in the foreground. I love this. Go get it today.