Monday, April 20, 2009

ALBUM: Hold Time by M. Ward

So I've been waiting way too long to write something about this record. I fell in love with it way back in January when it was streaming on NPR, and it's been consistently playing on my computer ever since it was released. I don't know why I've waited so long to write about it - I don't even know if there's much I can say to do it justice. Let's just say this: if you haven't heard it yet, go listen to it right now. Deal? Deal.

M. Ward inhabits this strange world somewhere between the inception of rock & roll and the present day - weaving in and out of whole musical eras and styles from all over the last half-century. One minute he's taking us on a tour of 1950's doo-wop, the next, early Spanish classical guitar, and the next, a 60's art film score. All of this shows up on Hold Time, but not like it has before. While his earlier albums have covered similar territory, seldom has Ward tread so close to pop as he does on this record, and the whole experience is better for it. Where parts of Post War and Transistor Radio (his last two albums) seemed to get washed away in their retro-backwash, no song on Hold Time suffers for its production. The hooks and melodies shine clear through the radio fuzz, with memorable moments popping up about as frequently as guitar licks.

From the two-stepping first single "Never Had Nobody Like You", to the dreamy title track "Hold Time", from the doo-dooing chorus of "To Save Me" to the jaunty "Fisher of Men", Ward has never put together such a solid set of songs as he has here. A particular stand-out is his duet with Lucinda Williams on "Oh Lonesome Me", where their raspy voices linger together over swelling strings and aching slide guitar. But as good as it is, it's just one of many near-perfect moments.

So far 2009 has produced some pretty remarkable albums. Hold Time is one of the best.

M. Ward - To Save Me (featuring Jason Lytle)
from the album Hold Time (Amazon/iTunes)


And here's the latest video for the album, a cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave On". Enjoy.

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