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M. Ward’s ‘More Rain’ review: Musical mix of clouds, rays of sun

M. Ward's Portland, Oregon, home inspires "More Rain"

M. Ward's Portland, Oregon, home inspires "More Rain" (Merge Records). Credit: Merge Records


BOTTOM LINE Indie-folk mood-setting successes.

M. Ward uses the stormy weather of his Portland, Oregon, home as inspiration for “More Rain” (Merge), which sounds wrapped in clouds with only glimmers of sunshine.

“Little Baby” may encapsulate that mood best, with hushed doo-wop vocal touches from Ward and k.d. lang that seem pulled from rainy Sunday mornings punctuated with bright, throwback guitar flourishes.

It’s a great dynamic, considering how well Ward creates atmospherics — whether it’s the poppiness of his duo She & Him with Zooey Deschanel or hootenanny mania with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis in Monsters of Folk.

The haziness of the pretty, laid-back “Slow Driving Man” or the aching, hushed “Phenomenon” sets a gorgeous base that makes the album’s poppier moments all the more sparkly.

On “Time Won’t Wait,” which uses Neko Case’s sassy background vocals and Ward’s occasional slips into T. Rex-like guitar riffs to simulate a night on the town, he crafts his own kind of love song. On “Temptation,” which features Peter Buck on Rickenbacker guitar solos, Ward builds his own kind of party, complete with triumphant trumpet blasts.

With “More Rain,” Ward shows off a wider range of emotions than usual and a way to craftily express them.

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