M. Ward Transistor Radio

[Merge; 2005]

Styles: americana, old-timey, folk
Others: My Morning Jacket, early Tom Waits, Devendra Barnhart

Some of the best artists are the ones that don't come riding a wave of overexposure. So it should come as no surprise that Transfiguration of Vincent (M. Ward's previous album) received very little attention upon its release in 2003. M. Ward's music has an element of yesteryear, and luckily for us, he had to win over fans show by excellent show and by word of mouth. Transistor Radio, M. Ward's latest release, luckily benefits from all of his hard work over the last two years. While not as strong as Transfiguration, the album might just be the ticket Ward needs to find himself where he belongs...at the top of the modern folk rock scene. At 16 tracks, Transistor Radio is a comprehensive workout in M. Ward's finest strengths. "You Still Believe in Me," a simple guitar instrumental reminiscent of his debut album End of Amnesia, opens the album and leads into the relatively new terrain of old-timey sing-alongs with "One Life Away." With backing vocals courtesy of touring pal Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), the duo finds a very common ground, mixing early country guitar work with vocal harmonies that recall the finest songs by the Carter Family. "Sweethearts on Parade," "Fuel for Fire," and "Four Hours in Washington" follow as the album moves along, but are unfortunately weaker versions of previously released songs. "Four Hours in Washington" is simply far too similar to "Sad, Sad Song" from Transfiguration for this listener not to take notice. Thankfully, "Paul's Song" returns to the finer M. Ward moments, with a beautiful acoustic strum hiding underneath Ward's silky voice. Most of Transistor Radio highlights this sort of dichotomy between beautiful, new directions and treading older territory, with mixed results. Indeed, the hit and miss nature of Transistor Radio makes it seem more like a compilation of songs rather than a cohesive album. But in the end, the album is a winner simply due to Ward's unique voice and talent as a songwriter. 

1. You Still Believe In Me
2. One Life Away
3. Sweethearts On Parade
4. Hi-Fi
5. Fuel For Fire
6. Four Hours In Washington
7. Regeneration No. 1
8. Big Boat
9. Paul's Song
10. Radio Campaign
11. Here Comes The Sun Again
12. Deep Dark Well
13. Oh Take Me Back
14. I'll Be Yr Bird
15. Lullabye & Exile
16. Well Tempered Clavier

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