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. Ward’s 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 track’s 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 that’s 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.