Album Reviews

Album Review: M Ward - Migration Stories (Anti Records)

Roger Bowie

Matthew Stephen Ward has been around a while. As M Ward it’s obvious he’s been thinking more about the music than a fancy stage name. And he’s been in other groups, like Monsters of Folk, along with Jim James and Conor Oberst, and She & Him, with Zooey Deschanel. But mostly he’s gone solo, ten times now with the release of Migration Stories, out today on Anti records. 

So, I am anticipating with interest as the album comes down, because, I’m ashamed to say, he’s new to me.

Migration Stories is recorded in Montreal Studios in Quebec, with, amongst others, Tim Kingsbury and Richard Reed Parry from Arcade Fire, this is a different type of collaboration for Mr Ward. In his own words:

Yeah, I’ve never collaborated with anyone who has as much knowledge as they do about old keyboards and synthesizers and textures… They added textures to the sound that I have never seen or heard, let alone used on any of my records, so that was an eye-opener – or, maybe an ear opener? Maybe that’s what it was.

Migrations of the Soul opens the album and already we understand the dream-like quality of his voice, gliding over acoustic chords, reminiscent of course, of the aforementioned Conor Oberst. Heaven’s Nail and Hammer, the same dreamy voice, the guitar twangy like Hank Marvin on a horse. And we go back even further on Coyote Mary’s Traveling Show, to Elvis’s teenage gospel years.

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Independent Man layers saxophone into the mix and the hint of a faster beat. Slow build. Well it’s a slow burner, if you ask me. That’s not a negative comment, just a reflection on the patience one needs to let an album grow. It’s patient folk for patient folk as Steven’s Snow Man takes us on a sweet little acoustic ramble, before the promise of beat is fulfilled in an Unreal City. I like the quiet stuff better. This one is too 60s poppy. No problem, I’ll start again, I imagine him responding, with Real Silence, which is of course not true, there’s sound involved.

Ok, let’s go back in time, with the tune made popular by Glenn Miller, Along the Santa Fe Trail. Is there such a thing as a dreamy cowboy?

Three more tracks, all very pleasant. I like Torch. I think of Eric Matthews. Who? Well, have a wee search for Eric. Almost made it. Couple of very nice albums in the 90s. Dreamy falsetto voice over guitar and keys. Patient pop. Bit like M Ward. Whoops, I’m going round.

Migration Stories finishes with another acoustic ditty, Rio Drone, and I’m glad I’ve persevered. Not happy, but glad. Not great, but nice. Patient folk, for patient folk, and as we all have time on our hands, unless we’re essential, this is just the album to help you wile away an afternoon. 

Out now everywhere…..

Listen to Migration of Souls

Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...