M. Ward
 

Songs for Cigarette Smokers and Bourbon Drinkers

Transistor Radio
February 22
Merge Records

Not ten seconds into the instrumental cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘You Still Believe in Me,’ you get the feeling that the aptly-titled Transistor Radio isn’t just another average record from a vaguely folksy singer songwriter. Maybe it’s the technical prowess displayed in the swirling acoustic guitar, or maybe it’s just that no one ever opens a record with a cover unless they’ve got some wacky thematic trick up their sleeve. Whatever it is, M. Ward’s latest effort draws you into a parallel universe where an entire century of American music is lovingly and carefully explored. Ward’s material runs the gamut from mournful front-porch dirges to sinister, bluesy jams that would be best enjoyed with stiff drinks in a smoke-filled nightclub. (I know, but maybe we can all take a trip down South?) Ward’s voice will wear on some, and portions will come off as a little too O Brother Where Art Thou? But with its dizzying guitar passages and subtly addictive melodies, there’s an awful lot to like about it — especially since it’s impossible to shake the feeling that M. Ward isn’t just a performer. He’s a fan, and a seemingly obsessive one, at that

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