M. WARD Post-War (Merge)
The fourth proper album by this California-based singer/songwriter ploughs ostensibly similar territory to the Grizzly Bear album reviewed above. However, M. Wards sound is much more organic and approachable witness the Chamberlin-like wheezing on Poison Cup and, crucially, he has a talent for writing a memorable tune, backed up by appearances from a dazzling array of alt.country glitterati, including Neko Case, Mike Mogis (Lullaby For The Working Class) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). Consequently, Post-War tugs at the heartstrings more often than it chills the cerebrum.
To Go Home is a gently, and perhaps appropriately, ramshackle Daniel Johnston cover, tellingly followed by the dark, creeping unease of Right In The Head, itself chased away by an ambient interlude a la Grantchester Meadows. The title tracks languid calm makes it a natural for a hammocks-and-hot-summer-days playlist; Chinese Translation is a delicious, jangling singalong that almost disguises the melancholia cloaking its heart. Magic Trick borders on a glam rock stomp, bursting with the kind of heart and soul thats sorely missing from the rather bloodless Grizzly Bear album.
Despite seeming rather sepia-toned and slight on first acquaintance, clocking in at a breezy 38 minutes, Post-War is a quiet delight of an album, its warm, dusty, comfy Americana sounding simultaneously familiar yet individual. Extra points to Merge, too, for bundling a free bonus download of the entire album with my vinyl copy.