The NY Times has a short profile of Portland troubadour Matt Ward, best know to ya’ll as simply M. Ward. His sixth studio album Hold Time comes out on Tuesday from Merge Records. You should probably buy it.
Through it all Mr. Ward has maintained his own distinctive style, built equally on his croaky, plaintive voice, his fingerpicking musicality and his throwback aesthetic sense. He doesn’t listen to much contemporary music or read newer books. He watches movies, but as for TV, he said, “I’ve never taken the plunge, except for ‘Twin Peaks.’ ”
It’s not that he’s a Luddite — he buys songs on iTunes and does late-night YouTubing like everyone else — or a misanthrope who believes that art was better in someone else’s day. “I know there’s great stuff out there,” he said. “But I don’t want to be influenced by stuff that’s going on around me. I’m more interested in consuming stuff that’s stood the test of time and the hard work of filtering has already happened.”
Is he just a little bit lazy? “I think lazy isn’t too far off,” he said. Even so, Mr. Ward is not out of step; contemporary indie music has caught up to his brand of revivalism. And he’s more diverse than he lets on: he likes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and grew up, near Los Angeles, on KROQ, then home to British new wave and acts like Sonic Youth and Firehose from the punk label SST.
“Listening to something that’s brand-new, I get a little bit excited about it,” he said, mentioning Fleet Foxes, a young harmonizing Seattle band, as a recent discovery, though he doesn’t yet own their album. “But I get more excited about stuff that’s obviously weathered storms.”
I know some dismiss M. Ward for being AM Gold or whatnot, but he is a sublime musical treasure.