A Wasteland Companion
A Wasteland Companion comes festooned with a sticker announcing that M. Ward’s latest record features members of She & Him. That there’s only one member of that duo who isn’t already M. Ward doesn’t seem to have struck the label’s PR team, but the trumpeting of Zooey Deschanel’s appearance on this soothing, syrupy record is a good sign of how strange Matthew Stephen Ward’s career has become.
His has turned out to be a portfolio career – first as a raw, even grungy kind of alt.country troubador, latterly as a kind of elder statesman in both She & Him and Monsters of Folk. He’s an enigmatic chap, our M., and perhaps this is the only way can go from one to the other role in little more than 10 years. A Wasteland Companion is an understated record, perhaps not quite so immediate as its predecessor, Hold Time – in fact, it works as a kind of contemplative correlative to that record – but it has its own kind of lovely heft.
There’s a Daniel Johnstone cover here – the Deschanel-heavy ‘Sweetheart’ – and a song about Big Star’s lead singer. In some ways, the record feels like a collection of things Ward likes, rather than anything approaching a coherent statement – some rockabilly here, some dustbowl folk there – but in another way this is what makes a Ward record so interesting. Come the autumn, you’ll be listening to this as the nights draw in …