M. Ward

Record review

Phases & Stages

M. Ward

Post-War (Merge)

Given its title and M. Ward's abilities as a wordsmith, it's tempting to assume Post-War is his scathing treatise on Bush the Younger's America. It's not. Its only politics are the sort manifested daily in our most intimate relationships. Ward's evildoers aren't terrorists, craven politicians, or faceless megacorporations but ordinary acquaintances, relatives, and lovers, whose greatest crimes are negligence and indifference. He's still more charitable toward others – his brother on "Right in the Head," a capricious woman on "Magic Trick" – than himself. "Everything I've loved I've forgotten," he sings on "Eyes on the Prize," not with resentment or sadness but with simple resignation. Well, almost everything; he remembers how damaging love can be, the vulnerability it creates, and how none of that ultimately matters on "Poison Cup": "If love is a poison cup, then drink it up." Ward needs someone else's song to look on the bright side, specifically Daniel Johnston's on a gorgeous cover of "To Go Home," further sweetened by Neko Case's guest vocals. In fact, most of his no-frills country and gospel melodies hint that maybe things aren't quite as dire as they seem. Ambivalent, fatalistic, heartbroken, defiantly hopeful; turns out Post-War is an American portrait after all.

***.5

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