Along with Sufjan Stevens and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, M. Ward is on the short list of musicians who are reinventing folk-rock for the 21st century. This new variety of folk is largely distributed on independent labels. Resistant to the expectations of high-volume sales, it is dreamy, impressionistic, yet intensely emotional. It is among the most artistically meaningful movements of this decade in pop.
Where Stevens' Illinois was the definitive album in this genre last year, 2006 will be defined by M. Ward's new release, Post-War.
The stunner is track 2, 'To Go Home.' It's a riveting battle cry of guitar, drums and piano chords that rise up to protest the inevitability of death: 'God it's great to be alive/takes the skin right off my hide/to think that I'll have to give it all up someday.'
This is an enhanced CD that includes a beautifully animated video to 'Chinese Translation.' The song is a story of a young man wandering up a tall mountain to seek advice from a wise old sage. It's punctuated by restrained pedal steel that perfectly electrifies the mood.
Post-War is everything there is to love about music.