If there's a record I've not stopped playing all year, it's this one. The follow-up to the quiet, candle-lit 'Transfiguration of Vincent' is a progressive, more knowing step forward. A leap into where and when is not entirely clear, which is what makes him so darn special. Album number four _'Transistor Radio' is another timeless record where smoke signals meet chimney stacks. This time around it's a static-touched background soundtrack played through the gramophones of eccentrics or the radios in beat up pick-ups to sweet little children playing with their imaginary friends at railroad crossings, in woods and by streams in dust-blasted one horse towns all across middle America.
M.Ward, has slowly and for a good while now, been building the kind of reputation most artists can only dream of. He's revered for his guitar playing (which, when experienced live is something mesmerising and otherworldly), his voice is an echoed husk from a rock'n'roll be-bop club in a Nashville netherworld but further from the devil than the stars. Then there's his lyrics: detached, philosophical in a mummah-always-told-me way. Fairly simplistic with a delicate hint of the ornate, which have made many a heart beat with a longing to find one of these seen-it-and-made-it-scenic rare souls.
When he lets slip, "I've got lonesome fuel for fire," the loneliness doesn't seem infinite, self-inflicted or hopeless but simply a case of wrong place, right time. In fact, the entire album has a running Wasn't Made For these Times feel, added to by the album's opening classical interpretation of The Beach Boys' 'You Still Believe in Me'. Anyone sat thinking that this is a wartless personal ad for the perfect man, you'll be happy to learn that he's probably not the cheeriest chap in the world, with songs like 'Paul's Song' lamenting so gracefully, "seems like everywhere I go the sky is falling... When I come to town/And the waitress says she'll meet you with a frown/ I ain't gonna' lie to you/well, every town is all the same/when you've left your heart in the Portland rain..."
It's not all overcast, doom and gloom: 'Radio Campaign' has some brightness, 'Big Boat' sounds like it could've been lifted from the O' Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and there's an air of hope throughout.
Still not on your way to the shop to get it? Need a poster quote? These are the best I can muster: _ "It's the most gentle and genteel record of the year."
It's dusty, musty and like blood, tastes kinda rusty.
"A romantic record with a lightness and fragility."
"He lives in a deep dark well with luminous green fairies and crying angels."
"He really is friends with My Morning Jacket, Grandaddy, Cat Power and Bright Eyes."
"Warm like mulled wine poured into the thimble buckets of butterflies, set to bring a hint of Christmas rain to the Mexican plains."
Or even simply, _"Even John Peel adored him." _ My album of the year - whatever year it is.
9Sean Adams's Score