M. Ward's latest is a rough-cut Americana diamond, one crafted not simply from folk and bluegrass but also 50s AM radio, the saloon cabaret of studio-era Hollywood, and good old-fashioned indie rock. It's artists like M. Ward who make me contemplate why I write about music. I get my skin tingling to the acoustic guitars and I'm just thinking "Jesus, is this what it's about?" I'm trying to put the feeling this music gives me into words in an attempt to understand it, to convey how great it is and why, and maybe convince you that it's worth your cash or your bandwidth, and it occurs to me that I'm unsure why I do it– why I need to do it– and that, in the end, it's because I'm enjoying this and I want you to enjoy it, too.
With his static-dusted voice and predilection for early rock antiquity, M. Ward has always come across as one of his generation's more understated bards. Interpreting the ever-deepening subtleties of his catalog generally requires repeated listens, and such is the case with his ninth solo effort, the appropriately moody More Rain. Easing in with a minute-long rainstorm soundscape, he leads off with the dreamy acoustic gallop of "Pirate Dial," a genial folk-pop hymn perfectly suited for the patient rotations of a vinyl long-player. A stuttering guitar groove on the Neko Case-aided "Time Won't Wait" quickens the album's pulse, setting up the similarly paced lead single, "Confession," a classic Ward track replete with a rich vein of warm backing vocals and soaring trumpet solo.