A Wasteland Companion by M. Ward

I’ve loved M. Ward for a long time. I love the sound of his records – somewhere between the dusty pops and cracks of a Smithsonian Folkways reissue and some sensitive boy singer/songwriter – I love the whisper of his voice that is simultaneously singing high notes and low notes and I love his fingerstyle guitar, which is full of little odes to other guitar players; George Harrison, Willie Nelson and tons of other dudes whose names escape me at the moment. I’m an unabashed M. Ward fan and not even his musical dalliances with everyone’s favorite pretty-girl-marketing-herself-as-a-geek-to-establish-a-niche Zooey Deschanel.

A Wasteland Companion is a return-to-awesome for Ward. It wasn’t that his last album, Hold Time, was bad so much as it felt too polished compared to his earlier records. A Wasteland Companion recaptures the warm, off-the-cuff feeling of Post-War and the songs are just better. Primitive Girl is the pop song that Ward should’ve sold to Budweiser instead of Never Had Nobody Like You and Mockingbird feels like something off of Transfiguration of Vincent.  To put it simply, A Wasteland Companion is the best collection of music M. Ward has created since 2006. It’s good stuff, people.

Now that the praise is out of the way, I have to say that I don’t understand his fascination with Zooey Deschanel’s over-singing. I get that she can stay on key, and that is a pretty important thing, but I don’t understand why Ward insists upon subjecting his fans to her voice. She sounds like every girl in every karaoke bar singing that “Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz” tune at 1:00 a.m. We get it honey: you’re drunk, your dad said you were talented and now you just wanna get fucked. I don’t know for sure if Ms. Deschanel is drunk or has a desire to be fucked, but I do know that is the emotion that her voice brings out in me.

If you can ignore her, check out A Wasteland Companion. It’s a hell of a record that isn’t trying to be a revolutionary moment in music. In a lot of ways, it feels like a tribute to sixties AM radio – and that is just wonderful.

— By Jason Bugg of The Bugg Blog, a freelance writer who has a wife, a bad rental home, two dogs, four cats, no kids, clinical depression and terribly strong thighs for a white man.

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