Over a year since we last heard anything from him, M. Ward is releasing his first solo album since 2009′s Hold Time. M. Ward is a gifted and talented singer/songwriter and guitarist who is one half of She & Him, the other being the multifaceted Zooey Deschanel, and a member of Monsters of Folk. As expected A Wasteland Companion is folk music at its best and is a LP consisting of twelve excellent tracks.
Each track on the album has its own unique sound, but the album as a whole is cohesive. At times the album is very warm and as light as a breeze, and at other times it is rough and edgy. The opening track “Clean Slate” is an acoustic based song, with a beautiful guitar part that is joined near the end by a dobro slide part and lightly brushed drumming. A track that is the exact opposite of that is “Sweetheart” it has a classic rock drum beat, and opens with a barrage of guitars, drums, and piano. It also features the vocals of Zooe Deschanel throughout. There is a layer of guitars from acoustic, to the typical 60s surf rock sound, right up to full on fuzz.
The instrumentation throughout the album is fantastic and often inspired. The song “Crawl After You” opens with a slow piano part and is joined beautiful by the vocals, bass, and a string section. Near the end of the song the lead violin part is joined by an electric guitar part that has a hauntingly beautiful effect. As typical with an M. Ward project the guitar playing on it is superb. The title track “A Wasted Companion” has some of the most beautiful acoustic guitar leads that I have heard in a long time. The song “Primitive Girl” has drumming that is reminiscent of that found in “Laid” by James.
This is the type of album that you listen to while driving on a sunny summer’s day. I enjoyed this album thoroughly and did not find myself wanting to skip to the next song at any point. The tracks are placed in a way that you never get bored with repetitive sounds. M. Ward has delivered with A Wasteland Companion, and the only negative thing I have to say about it is that sometimes the vocals are overly saturated with reverb. That being said this album will be on heavy rotation in my car all summer long. Anyone who is a fan of She & Him or any of M. Wards past albums will definitely enjoy this one.