Music Review: M. Ward's Hold Time

by Vincent Lee

A large portion of M. Ward's best work has been under three minutes. On his first four albums, especially Transfiguration of Vincent and Transistor Radio, the brevity of his songs was especially notable. Though Post-War departed from this idea, Hold Time largely returns to it. With a host of extremely catchy and upbeat songs, Ward (the initial "M." is short for Matt) puts together another terrific record.

The opener “For Beginners” sets the tone for the rest of the record. Quick songs carried by fantastic guitar melodies and memorable lyrics. Several songs repeat the same basic line over and over, but develop musically as the song goes on. This style has been a signature of Ward's music for the majority of his albums. Interestingly enough, Ward has managed to keep this basic idea fresh by progressing musically and stylistically.

Other highlights include Ward's cover of “Oh Lonesome Me,” with Lucinda Williams providing a great accompaniment. A sharp contrast from the well known Neil Young cover, it feels significantly slower and darker. “Stars of Leo” and “Blake's View” are other standouts which match some of the best of Ward's work.

Hold Time might not be quite as strong as Post-War or even to the level of Transfiguration of Vincent or Transistor Radio, but it is another very good album in an already strong catalogue. The large number of guests enhance the sound of the album and they keep Ward's sound fresh. Hold Time is a strong composition that remains consistent and pleasant listen after listen, showing Ward will not be slowing down any time soon.

(The photo of M. Ward performing in New York City is from 2007 by tammylo of New York City via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. Ward will continue his tour with a performance in Boston, on Feb. 18. To see the the video for the title track of Ward's new release Hold Time, please check below.)

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