A Wasteland Companion
Portland’s Matthew Ward went from releasing a slew of amazing albums under his own name before hooking up a few years ago with one-time indie-film It Girl, Zooey Deschanel, to make a couple of much less compelling albums under the band name She & Him. While they may not have compared to the understated purity of his own records, it’s obviously opened his appeal up to a larger audience and it’s hard to fault him for it.
He’s well back on track with A Wasteland Companion, and despite it featuring a massive cast of indie who’s who type people, it still comes across with the same authenticity as his previous solo records. The extended cast become apparent by the third track, Me And My Shadow, which smuggles in a chorus of singers for some oohs and ahhs, and bursts into a surprising guitar wail as a breakdown.
Deschanel makes an unwelcome and annoyingly loud appearance on the chorus of the bar room piano romp, Sweetheart, confirming it’s not just indie-snobbery causing the dismay at this pairing. The tracks with stripped-back instrumentation always shine more of a light on Ward’s warble and distinct guitar style, and gives you a better chance to experience the song itself. There’s A Key and the album’s opener, Clean Slate, give real insights. Watch The Show is darker than usual and drenched in effects, which add more weight to the track’s more experimental nature.
The recording sessions for the album were done in a bunch of different studios all over the world, and there is a very satisfying variety of sounds due to this fact. An ambitious record, not his best, but with enough gems to make it worthwhile.
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