Song of the Day: M. Ward - Girl From Conejo Valley

Local Music, Song of the Day
01/15/2016
Jacob Webb
photo by Renata Steiner (view set)

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Girl From Conejo Valley” by M. Ward from the 2016 album More Rain on Merge Records.

M. Ward - Girl From Conejo Valley (MP3)

One of the most prolific musicians of the '00s, Matthew "M" Ward has spent the last 15 years building a reputation as both a potent collaborator and a strong songwriter in his own right. A skilled, agile guitar player and singer, Ward began his career as a solo artist, although by the middle of the 2000s, he'd established himself as a key collaborator to Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, and a few years later, Zooey Deschanel, with whom he founded the pop group She & Him. Concurrent to these collaborations, Ward's solo material stayed constant, both in quality and release frequency during this time, putting out five good-to-great albums across the decade. His latest album, this year's More Rain, has origins in a vocal-centric studio project that turned into an album that features a slew of guests, including the inimitable singers Neko Case and k.d. Lang. "Girl From Conejo Valley" is quintessential M. Ward, even if it has a different sonic pallet than his prior work. With more prominent production than ever on his vocals and guitar, not to mention the surging synth riff that drives the song's chorus, Ward's songwriting takes a new path, emphasizing his arrangements over his own performance to add another page of Ward's gorgeous lovelorn laments. Ward sounds more like a bandleader than a songwriter on "Girl From Conejo Valley", but after more than a few songs where he's proved himself as a self-sufficient musical force, it's a refreshing turn, full of spark and nuance.

M. Ward will be bringing More Rain to the Pacific Northwest in May when he makes an appearance at this year's Sasquatch Music Festival. Keep up with Ward at his website and Facebook and watch the video for "Girl From Conejo Valley" below.

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