Best Albums of 2009: #11, M. Ward's Hold Time

Rank: #11
Album: Hold Time
Artist: M. Ward
Label: Merge

M. Ward's latest endeavor, Hold Time, is nothing new for the artist. He's made a living the last few years creating instrumental-heavy guitar music that strikes the balance between modern and classic sounds. With each album he's put out, this ability has seemingly gotten more and more pronounced, as one can tell by 2008's She & Him collaboration with Zooey Deschanel, and this effort here. In particular, Hold Time executes this aesthetic phenomenally well, with a series of older covers and of course, enough of a filter on Ward's already-weathered voice to make him appear to be singing to us from 30 years ago.

For an album mainly about introspection and a search for something more, Hold Time manages to keep it surprisingly upbeat-- as the journey is mostly highlighted by bright and pleasant melodies (see "Jailbird," "To Save Me"). Yes, there are your more somber moments as well ("Hold Time," "Blake's View"), but all fit into the puzzle perfectly (even the covers) as Ward's soul-seeking map unfolds. The results are also left ambiguous, leaving the listener to wonder if success was, in fact, achieved. Many of the album's closing tracks alternate between upbeat satisfaction and somber realization, but it's to the record's advantage. Without a definitive ending, the listener is free to assume their own, and explore the effort further, to really grab what they want to out of it.

Best Track: "To Save Me"

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