Sound: A mix of old-time country, lazy lo-fi folk, Beach Boys-esque wall-of-sound pop, groovy garage rock and more. Some of the songs sound like they could have been recorded half a century ago (particularly the more stripped-down ones with hissing ambience) and there are a couple of covers of songs that date that far back. But most of the album finds M. Ward pushing his music in a bold new direction that’s even a touch more modern than the recordings on his last album, Post-War. Fuzzy guitars, moody synthesizers and electronic flourishes mingle with strummed, chugging, bouncy and fingerpicked acoustic guitars, singing piano lines, dense orchestrations and of course, M. Ward’s vintage croak.
Heavy Rotation tracks: “To Save Me” featuring Jason Lytle (ex-Grandaddy frontman); “Never Had Nobody Like You” featuring Zooey Deschanel; “Stars of Leo”; “Blake’s View”
Medium Rotation tracks: “Fisher of Men”; “For Beginners”; “Epistemology”
Recommended: Hold Time is M. Ward’s most successful release to date—it’s his best collection of tunes featuring his most forward-thinking production. If he’d have stuck with the denser, more modern sounds throughout, he may have even made a masterpiece. But the occasional leaps back disrupt the flow from time to time.
Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2009 Candidate)