She & Him released their first record, appropriately titled Volume One while I was living in California. A big fan of Zooey Deschanel (read: my girl crush), I didn’t want to be disappointed, as many actor-turned-musicians have failed to gain my appreciation. However, this duo had the opposite effect on me- I was intrigued by their nostalgic, light, folk-pop sound. Though, as I said, I like Ms. Dechanel a little too much. I don’t think she could have pulled this album (or their most recent release, Volume Two) off without the musical stylings of Matt Ward, or M. Ward, the stage name he prefers.
Later on, after I had left California to pursue graduate school, I walked into my apartment and my roommate was playing Ward’s Post-War. I had never heard this album before, but I was drawn to it instantly. I immediately acquired this album and started researching past solo music projects Ward had been a part of, as well as his soon-to-be released album Hold Time. It was after this research that I realized he was in large part why I like She & Him so much (honestly, it’s not because of their deep and meaningful lyrics). I liked the movie “The Go-Getter”, in which Ward has a guitar-playing cameo and is heavily featured on the soundtrack.*
I bought Hold Time the day it was released last year and it’s proven to have staying power, as it continues to be in my regular rotation. Ward Wisely chose several covers on this record, including “Rave On” by Buddy Holly, “Oh Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson, and “Outro (I’m a Fool to Want You)” by Frank Sinatra. Three of the tracks feature guest vocals by Deschanel, Jason Lytle, and Lucinda Williams, respectively. I even enjoy the cover art.
Last week, I had the good fortune to see She & Him perform live at a crowded (but air conditioned) New York venue. While Deschanel was having problems with her Wurlitzer, Ward made up for it with his guitar playing. Though I always appreciate someone with good guitar chops, I am usually more interested in the drummer/ings (an instrument I picked up in college), I was blown away by Ward. He’s just so good! So talented! So easy to watch and fall in love with!*
True to the stories I’ve heard or read, Ward opted out of the spotlight, literally and figuratively. He didn’t say much during the show, but when he did the crowd showered him with applause and admiration. Personally, I got a special treat when the first song the band played during the encore was my favorite Ward song, “Magic Trick”, from Post-War. A review of the show can be found here.
I guess my point is that I love M. Ward, and you should too. Or at least check him out.
*M. Ward had signed onto the film before it had a budget or had been casted. Also, it’s how Ward and Deschanel met.
*Deschanel’s voice is actually also way better live. She belted out a cover of Nina Simone’s “You Put a Spell on Me” during the group’s final encore song. She kept getting interrupted by applause. It was really incredible.