Folk Rock Review: M. Ward - Migration Stories

Release Date: April 10, 2020
Label: Anti-Records

On Migration Stories, M. Ward rides the elusive suffusion, which intertwines the conscious and unconscious mind. Someone tried to label it long ago as ‘Mellow Gold,’ but like all labels, it is superficial and, like an abstract of an abstract, fails to capture any depth.  The sonic essence of this record feels like the springtime sun smacking your face after a long, cold winter. It warms you to the point of epiphany and a realization that better times are ahead of us.  

M. Ward’s 10th studio album starts slow and then grows gradually like a flower garden surrounding the listener in a bed of color. Migration Stories’ wavelength is similar to Ray Lamontagne’s super mellow vibe in Oroboros, Beck’s wistful mellowness in Sea Change, and the sun-drenched exaltation of the Beach Boys. Weave all this together with a thread of Nat King Cole, and you have a sonic experience unlike any other.  

Some of the more memorable moments include “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer,” where M. discovers heaven through the holes in the sky.  “Independent Man” rides a slow fuzzy groove in and out of reality toward an uneven proclamation of unrequited obsession. “Real Silence” build on itself orchestrally to produce one of the finest tracks while the infectious “Torch” repeats the line “heartbeats in rhythm to its own, ba, ba, bahhhh” is likely to create an earworm in your brain for days.  Lyrically, whether traveling through the “Unreal City” or “Along the Santa Fe Trail,” they paint a picture throughout of souls lost or in transition. 

There’s a lesson to be learned as we sit on the sand and listen to the tide gently caress the shoreline, and that is, the slower you go, the more you’ll know. Turning down the volume on our lives and moving at a more careful and deliberate pace allows us to take in more of the world around us.  This, in turn, fills us with wonder and hope for a brighter future. When an E chord is introduced after three minutes of a C, G & A progression, that E chord hits your ears like a clapper hitting a church bell.  

So, take a lesson from Migration Stories and let it take you from one place to another.  During these uneasy times, sometimes it’s best to let go and like swallows heading south, ride the wind and surrender yourself to nature, trusting that eventually, we will all arrive at a better place. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen  

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