A prolific writer, producer, and performer, M. Ward has established himself as one of modern American music’s most unique and versatile voices. While he’s perhaps best known for his own remarkable output—nine acclaimed studio albums that have prompted Rolling Stone to hail him a “folk hero” and The Guardian to praise him as “a maverick auteur who draws upon blues, folk, country and art-rock, and is equally adept within each genre”—Ward may be equally celebrated for his wide-ranging and adventurous collaborations.
In just the last decade alone he’s teamed up with Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Jim James to form the beloved super group Monsters of Folk, paired with Zooey Deschanel for six records as She & Him and worked in the studio and on the road with the likes of Mavis Staples, Jenny Lewis, Norah Jones, Cat Power, Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, Peter Buck, and countless more.
Ward’s newest album, ‘Migration Stories’ (out April 3), marks his eleventh studio release and his debut for ANTI- Records. Recorded at Arcade Fire’s Montreal studio, the collection is languid and hazy, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy as it reckons with a world that feels more divided than ever before, even as its inhabitants grow more inextricably linked by the day. Ward’s delivery is tender and gentle throughout the album’s eleven intimately rendered meditations, but there’s an undercurrent of darkness floating just beneath the surface, a persistent sense that the end may be closer than any of us dare to realize.
Eerily beautiful opener “Migration of Souls” imagines a reunion beyond the boundaries of space and time, while the slow-shuffling “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer” gets lost in the stars, and the driving “Unreal City” searches for peace in a post-apocalyptic swirl of synthesizers. It’s a record that draws on the full gamut of Ward’s profound powers as an artist, mixing folk tradition and timeless song craft with bold production and transportive sonic landscapes.
"It was in winter 18/19 - I flew to Montreal to meet with Tim Kingsbury, Richard Reed Parry, Craig Silvey and Teddy Impakt at Le Studio Du Arcade Fire. It was a fine time with a dream team in a city I love. Winter in beautiful Quebec. Les semaines les plus froides de ma vie.
I had a bunch of demos that were inspired by migration stories I had heard from friends or read in newspapers while on tour in Europe and North America. I remember being struck by the similarities of the stories I heard from both continents and how really only the names of the powerful and the powerless had changed - thinking, "Is this the future? Is this our future?"
Some time went by, the stories wove together and I remember them now closer to characters in a dream of how people could treat each other than any kind of front-page news realism. I think music subconsciously - whether writing or listening - is a filter for me - helping to process all the bad news into something new to build from - some records to me are like self-fulfilling prophecies - visualizing change to wish something into being - those records inspired this one.
And so...by the power of suggestion we recorded these 12 largely instrumental ballads - a sci-fi fast forward to a more silent night many generations from here to a maybe-era where movement is free again."
MW - winter 19/20