RT: “I’m Listening (Child’s Theme)”, “Little Baby”, “Slow Driving Man”
RiYL: Jesse Woods, Jose Gonzalez, Y La Bamba
If there was a list of accomplished artists, M. Ward would definitely be on it. The Portland-based musician exhibits a discography of 9 full records as well as numerous collaborations with artists like Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Jenny Lewis, as well the folk supergroup Monsters of Folk. M. Ward is known for his acoustic songwriter eloquence, with a skillful emotional fluency of an atmosphere creator just by using his voice and guitar, exemplified in popular tracks like “Chinese Translation” and “Let’s Dance”. However, when it comes to his latest album release More Rain, M. Ward seems to let down this mastery with tracks of mere easy listening. More Rain is good, but to call it great might need a splash of personal opinion and a dash of relativity.
M. Ward starts off More Rain with a recording of rain falling as the intro, showing promise of a setting of calm. However, the following track “Pirate Dial” breaks this drizzly premise with a sunny, surf-like basis, the seeming goal to persuade the listener to head over to an island hammock and sleep. Tracks like “Confession”, “Girl From Conejo Valley”, “Temptation”, and “Phenomenon” (already nearly half of the album) provide a simplicity that has to be labeled easy listening. The simple acoustic guitar and basic chord progressions give the album a cheesy, sunny feel. Plain vocal melodies fill the chorus with repetitive lyrics (see “Temptation”). The listener can’t help but feel like the album took from 1st half 2000’s pop-rock songs and replaced gain with an acoustic.
M. Ward also visits a blues root in tracks like “Time Won’t Wait”, “You’re So Good to Me”, and “I’m Going Higher”. If you like dominant 7 chords in your progressions, More Rain might be a better album for you. M. Ward uses a blues like country guitar as well as the basic bar progressions. His guitar solos, although half-hearted in the majority of the tracks, are actually quite skillful in the more blues-y tracks. M. Ward also picks up the drum beat in these tracks, giving a cool drive. Note: these tracks only skim the surface of excellent blues, so do not expect a BB King tribute or anything.
More Rain does tap into M. Ward’s classic artistry with tracks like “I’m Listening (Child’s Theme)”, “Little Baby”, and especially “Slow Driving Man”. In these tracks, which are sadly the minority of the album, M. Ward utilizes acoustic guitar and electric guitar in a perfect dance to create the romance you’ve missed in his past works. M. Ward’s use of harmonized oohs and aahs – even doo wops, yip yips, and shalala’s in “Little Baby” – take the listener to a 1950’s teenage romance complete with a true love light. M. Ward’s vocal choir adds angelic flutters to the heart as his use of violin ensembles create the tracks’ grace. M. Ward’s lyrics are so cute, they’ll make you blush in delight: “Talk to Me Baby”, “You’re So Good to Me”. “Slow Driving Man” is the star of the record, using the beautiful recipe of romance with a sultry R&B borrowed drum beat and M. Ward’s sexy whisper vocals coaxing a “I’m gonna sing it just as slow as I can”. In “Slow Driving Man”, M. Ward is the suave guy who your heart flurries for every time he reaches his gaze to yours.
M. Ward’s More Rain is definitely not one of his best records, but it does have a select few exemplary tracks like “Slow Driving Man”. Unfortunately, the majority of the album consists of easy, simple musicality and a basic emotional plane. The album is definitely not bad, certainly good, and M. Ward die-hard fans will appreciate the record in all its glory. However, M. Ward does seem to be lax on his game in More Rain. Still, it’s okay to state that More Rain is a good album to listen to just for the sake of listening to.