Review Summary: Amidst charming production and classic Americana, Hold Time is entertaining yet stagnant and generally underwhelming.
From a thematic perspective, Matt Ward maintains a simplistic, yet effective methodology; Transfiguration of Vincent
bled pain and broken hearts, Transistor Radio
paid homage to the AM radio of old, while the epic Post War
was about… well… war and metaphysical fallout. The common thread throughout each motif lies within heavily Americana-influenced arrangements, basic yet fundamentally beautiful. Using composition as a vessel to convey perspective, it is either baffling or awkwardly pompous that 2009’s Hold Time
attempts to infer the implicit – that some things are indeed timeless.
Hearkening back to simpler times, the attempted genre is consistent with M. Ward’s previous efforts – yet even more subdued, reducing complexity so much as to be detrimental. An avid practitioner of combining minimalist folk with (but not limited to) blues, surfer rock, and the danceable (while enhanced by expansive production standards), Hold Time
fails to maintain any epic quality beyond more than a handful of arrangements. Underwhelming from the onset, “For Beginners” expounds the very title; Ward is no newcomer to folk-rock, yet manages to pull off a poor self-imitation in initializing a tone unfitting for the mount Zion subject matter. Follow-up “Never Had Nobody Like You” is an exercise in rudimentary blues-rock, dripping of pseudo-emotional drivel and elementary school jazz band qualities. Don’t fret though, it gets better.
With incredibly high standards to begin with, it’s very difficult to find any solace in Ward’s new direction. Feeding from his time with Zooey Deschanel on the She & Him project, Hold Time
takes an amorphous shape, functioning as an intermediary between Volume One
and Post War
. The S&H influence is obvious on several occasions where Ward seems almost confused with his allegiances, as explained (albeit possibly a bit too severely). This synthesis is effective more than it isn’t, and while it doesn’t reach the epic proportions of his previous effort, therein lays the foundation for future improvement. Dancing somewhere between memoir and theological musing, “Fisher of Men” is definitive proof of this. Remnants from times past (perhaps a compositional metaphor) are sprinkled throughout, namely the epic and dynamic “Hold Time” and beautiful outro track.
While unpracticed in this hybridization approach, Ward manages to put together an enjoyable effort. More-so a redefinition than a follow-up to his acclaimed solo catalogue, Hold Time
proves his masterful production ability and effortless folk-guitar skill, but pervades a completely disjointed atmosphere. Make no mistake, this is an enjoyable listen and could be an effective formula with more work and cohesion, but for now, this is the first major disappointment of the year.