M. Ward, based out of Portland, OR, released his 8th studio album this month titled “More Rain”.  His music brings a West Coast vibe to an Americana-influenced sound.  Listening to his albums is like pulling a nice warm blanket over yourself and settling in on a rainy day.  His guitar playing is exceptional and understated and his vocals fit his music very well.  Ward spent six years playing in the folk rock trio Rodriguez before embarking on his solo career.  His first solo effort “Duet for Guitars #2” came out in 2000.  Ward got some positive critical buzz and some attention from the underground scene and did some touring in the U.S. and Europe.  It was Ward’s third solo effort in 2003, “Transfiguration of Vincent” his first release on Merge Records, that got him some mainstream attention.  His next two albums “Transistor Radio” and “Post-War” (my favorite) set him up as a major player in the indie folk/adult alternative rock scene.  Then in 2008 after collaborating on a soundtrack song with Zooey Deschanel (yes the actress), the two recorded and released an album as a duo – She & Him.  Ward continued to work on solo efforts while also recording 4 more albums with She & Him (who have charted as high as #6 on the album charts).  Ward also recorded an album with folk-rock super group Monsters of Folk (Ward, Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes).  Ward’s musical talents are also in demand from other artists; he has performed on albums by Neko Case, Norah Jones, Cat Power, Jenny Lewis, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket.  He clearly is a musician that is well-respected by fellow musicians.  His 7th solo album which came out 4 years ago, was his highest charting solo effort rising up to #21 on the Billboard Chart.
 
That brings us to album #8, “More Rain”.  Ward brings together the familiar elements of his sound across the 11 songs on the album (the first track is basically a recording of rain for one minute).  He features a few guests including Neko Case and Peter Buck (REM), covers a Beach Boys song and mixes things up enough to keep the listener engaged.  While maybe not his best album, it’s another solid release from Ward.  Here’s a few of the best cuts from “More Rain”.
 
“Girl From Conejo Valley” – The first single from “More Rain” highlights is an example of a classic M. Ward song.  Guitar driven with some other interesting sounds in the mix (in this case a Moog synth stands out), quieter verses and a chorus with a nice hook. 

 
“Temptation” – Ward pushes the intensity level up a bit on this track, getting some additional guitar work from Peter Buck to beef up the sound.   This is a short and efficient song that works very well in the context of the album.

 
“Confession” – Another classic example of an M. Ward song with some nice guitar but this one also has some bass playing a bigger role in the sound.  There are some nice background vocals during the choruses as well as a trumpet solo playing a prominent role at the end of the song.

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