A Wasteland Companion (Merge)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., May 11, 2012
M. WardA Wasteland Companion (Merge)
Although recorded in six cities – including Austin – and at eight studios, with guests from Sonic Youth and Dr. Dog to Bright Eyes, A Wasteland Companion coheres. While not as sunny as 2009's Hold Time, it's confident and multifaceted, the first half hook-filled pop ("Primitive Girl") highlighted by a cover of Daniel Johnston's "Sweetheart," which overflows with hand claps, doo-wop, and Zooey Deschanel. That's when the title track finds him retreating into his roots with understated ambience. The piano and strings of "Crawl After You" bring an autumnal feel to the proceedings, sure to relieve longtime fans looking for the gray moods of his previous work. Spare, almost gospel closer "Pure Joy" is likely to thrill the most as an unpretentious declaration of Ward at his best.