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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back around the campfire with M. Ward
For those only familiar with Matthew Ward's work as the Him in Zooey Deschanel's pastiche to `60s pop and aw-shucks charm in She & Him, A Wasteland Companion opener "Clean Slate (For Alex & El Goodo)" is probably a bit of a curveball. Yet after years of working behind the curtain in both She & Him and with more outspoken rock revivalists Conor Oberst, Jim James and Mike...
Published on April 10, 2012 by Rudolph Klapper

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably not his best effort
But some of the songs grow on you after repeated listenings. Seems like he took a different direction with this album, which I'm sure some folks will love but I prefer his other stuff.
Published on November 26, 2012 by W. G. Kuhn


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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back around the campfire with M. Ward, April 10, 2012
This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
For those only familiar with Matthew Ward's work as the Him in Zooey Deschanel's pastiche to `60s pop and aw-shucks charm in She & Him, A Wasteland Companion opener "Clean Slate (For Alex & El Goodo)" is probably a bit of a curveball. Yet after years of working behind the curtain in both She & Him and with more outspoken rock revivalists Conor Oberst, Jim James and Mike Mogis in the Monsters of Folk, this is the M. Ward longtime fans will be delighted to hear - Ward's husky, ashen voice ruminating over barely there acoustic strumming, losing itself in the simple campfire pleasures of storytelling and the barely there hiss of an AM radio. Ward's production talents really started to shine through with his last solo effort, 2009's Hold Time, and the aforementioned work with She & Him and his more esteemed partners in Monsters of Folk hit on familiar Ward touchstones: Brill Building pop, Chuck Berry homage, and dyed-in-the-wool `60s Americana. A Wasteland Companion, Ward's seventh album, continues to touch on all of these influences at one point or another. "Clean Slate" is where Ward's heart belongs though, resting in the shadowy period between the blues and British Invasion pop, a time when recording on more than one track was a studio trick in itself. The sparse tribute to Big Star is striking in its simplicity, and although A Wasteland Companion goes to great lengths to show Ward's dexterity as a producer, few artists can transport a listener as easily as Ward does on "Clean Slate" with just an acoustic and that inimitable voice.

The first half of A Wasteland Companion suffers from Ward's seeming desire to do everything at once - from the contemplative folk of "Clean Slate" he rushes into the heady "Primitive Folk," which, with its ivory pounding and lovelorn attitude, comes off as strangely tossed off, the kind of song Ward could write in his sleep. That near flawless acoustic interlude seguing into the foreboding "Me and My Shadow," however, is just the kind of sleight-of-hand musicianship that Ward can make seem effortless. While "Primitive Girl" and "Me and My Shadow" ostensibly seem quite different, in both tone and structure, they nevertheless hail from that same sepia-toned early `60s soundscape that Ward has been worshipping for years. Yet where the former arrives as a pale imitation of his best homages, "Me and My Shadow" is at times threatening and alive in a way "Primitive Girl" only hints at, something the sexy, ragged guitar mini-solo certainly contributes to. Yet from there Ward throws in the requisite Deschanel duet (Daniel Johnston cover "Sweetheart," which comes off as a wannabe She & Him B-side) and a strangely jaunty, incredibly out of place Louis Armstrong cover ("I Get Ideas").

So A Wasteland Companion, at least initially, seems determined to continue the ideal of Ward as a new classicist in American pop music, deconstructing the sounds of the past and re-imagining them in the present to create something fresh. This works well with the pointedly nostalgic She & Him and the one-off mission of Monsters of Folk, but in the context of Ward's own discography it's unnecessary, as the second half of the record proves. Ward is still the same classicist he's always been on a song like "The First Time I Ran Away," a student of Guthrie and Holly and well-traveled dirt roads, but "The First Time I Ran Away" feels indubitably organic whereas "Primitive Girl" sounds like a cover. That lovely strumming, the insistent bass drum beat echoing in the background, a touch of synths - it all accentuates an atmosphere Ward painstakingly crafts to sound like all his favorite old records, yet imbues with his own feeling and straightforward lyrical narratives. The twanginess of the title track increases in direct proportion to the distant background sounds of a crowd Ward interposes over the hum of strings, and it's nostalgic and affecting, but it touches something more primal and natural than the candy-coated pop hooks of the first half.

Ward's disparate influences will always have a huge pull on him, along with his continually growing production experience, but the beauty in his solo work has always been his take on this lesser known tangent of Americana. Not the pop foundations he mastered and made famous with She & Him, but the shuffling acoustic ramblings of "Wild Goose" and the gospel-tinged blues worship in "Pure Joy" - the frayed, graying tones of what people first loved about rock `n roll, not the rose-colored hues of She & Him but the grit of country blues and the haze of transistor static. A Wasteland Companion at first seems unsure of what it wants to be or where it wants to go, vacillating between various genre exercises rooted in a common retro theme, but by the end it reaffirms what those who've loved Ward's old work have always known - there's plenty of poignancy in just a guitar pick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably not his best effort, November 26, 2012
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (MP3 Music)
But some of the songs grow on you after repeated listenings. Seems like he took a different direction with this album, which I'm sure some folks will love but I prefer his other stuff.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars oh man i wanted to love this one, April 15, 2012
This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
m. ward is one of my favorites. his ability to turn solitude into beautiful music is peerless these days. from "undertaker" to "post-war" to the best cover of "rave on" of all time, m. ward's got the goods. i cannot emphasize enough how psyched i was for "a wasteland companion." first, the title is excellent. second, "the first time i ran away" showcases his songwriting talents as well as any other track he's produced to date. but, from start to finish, this album is his least ambitious and feels so rushed that it makes me wonder who was in charge of its production. was it m. ward? i'm not sure. it's one thing if it felt rushed from a production standpoint -- great garage albums exist, of course -- but there is so little life and emotion in this record that i feel like he was held at gun point to record whatever came to mind. in general, it's forgettable. he can redeem himself, to be sure, but this album is clearly the low point in his career, and it feels really strange to type it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, July 10, 2012
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
I was ready for something big after "Hold Time" and M's other work of the last few years. The first half of this project started to deliver and then, to me, seemed to fizzle. Judging from the other reviews, many take an opposite view. Apparently there are two M. Ward camps and at least two sides to Mr. M. himself. All I know is that there was only one song I didn't care for on "Hold Time" or "Post War" and I haven't really even listened to the She & Him stuff. I'll be looking for the next product; another Monster collaboration maybe?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Music Initiative Review, June 5, 2012
This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
From the stark contrast of songs that seem to flow like day to night, to his exceedingly compelling and shadowy voice, to the dynamic openness and echoing sounds of the guitar, A Wasteland Companion is a definite representation of M. Ward's masterful skill and timeless sound. For his eighth solo project, M. Ward delivers this tight knit collection of 12 songs that, although vastly different, seem to connect in an overall beautiful way. None of the songs reach four minutes, but nothing seems missed or left out. "Primitive Girl" has a fun and poppy piano feel, but fades into what seems like a completely different song, going somewhere dark and chilling. His classic vocal and guitar mix is best illustrated in "The First Time I Ran Away," where he seems to be floating over his own fluid guitar playing with textured yet soft spoken vocals. Even Zooey Deschanel, who worked with Mr. Ward on their critically acclaimed music duo She & Him, makes a charming appearance on the fun rock cover of Daniel Johnston's "Sweetheart." Although only a brief thirty minutes in length, this album is worth repeated listens.

By Ace Alexander
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Album, May 14, 2014
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
I'm biased, because in my mind, M. Ward can do no wrong. I love just about everything he puts out there. (Except She & Him, which is too much "she" and not enough "him.") This album is great for road trips in the mountains.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful piece of work, October 13, 2013
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
I purchased this CD for one song in particular and ended up loving the entire thing. M. Ward is a talented, clever writer and an amazing musician. I love the mood of this work and was delighted to find I already knew him from the band She and Him. I like She and Him, but this solo work is different. This CD stays in my stereo, I listen to it every day.
I collect all kinds of music from all kinds of artists, this guy is currently my favorite. I don't read celebrity news and have no idea if he is truly famous but if he isn't, he will be and I have to think he is well respected among his peers. I will be buying more of his work, He really is a pleasure to hear.
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5.0 out of 5 stars American Original, October 7, 2013
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (Audio CD)
There are three good reasons to like M. Ward. First, there is the range of his song writing as it reinvents the term "Americana" on each record. Then there is the excellent guitar work and nuanced tone he finds by stretching what is old into something new again. And let's not forget his voice, a fully realized character through which his songs find voice, as distinct and original as anything you will find in music today. If you prefer 'authentic' rather than 'commercial,' then this is what you are looking for.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, March 7, 2013
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Standaman (GREER, Seychelles) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Wasteland Companion (MP3 Music)
A Wasteland Companion is just what the doctor ordered for 2012. I needed a year of rebirth and M. Ward gave me my soundtrack for the genesis. I highly recommend this album and would put it in my top 5 favorites of 2012.
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5.0 out of 5 stars awesome., February 19, 2013
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(: this is my favorite album of 2012. it's a must have on vinyl! from start to finish I love it.
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