Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr M. Ward is an incredibly consistent musician, in the sense that you pretty much know what you’re going to get when he releases a new album. More Rain marks his eighth LP and features familiar country tinges and melancholic acoustics. But the familiarity makes it no less enticing. And Ward covers quite a bit of ground on this album, from the folk-inspired to the truly bouncy. In its more upbeat moments, it’s very She & Him. Ward certainly opens himself up to new (mostly electronic) sounds more than he has before as a solo performer, and that lends a hand in making More Rain more than an enjoyable rehash. In its quiet ballads, the album once again shows Ward’s strong suits. The sheer simplicity of “Pirate Dial” in the pairing of Ward’s jangly guitar and gentle gravel of a voice allows for rare echoing synths to slowly build into something both remorseful and ethereal. Subtle layering is the key on so many of these tracks. “I’m Listening (Child’s Theme)” is a soulful, tender ode that veers into lullaby with its doo-wop backing vocals, an addition that seems odd but works well. Even “Slow Driving Man” spices up its acoustics with pseudo-Afro percussion and a bluesy electric guitar. The uptempo songs, however, almost outnumber the slow-burners. Numbers like “Time Won’t Wait” are infectious romps that have charm in spades (Ward recorded a backing track of “do-do”s to accompany the percussion) and fun-loving flourishes (here, some ragtime piano). “Girl From Conejo Valley” ramps things up even more while also deferring to Ward’s softer side. It has plenty of mandolin and rusticism, but the chorus also introduces a Ward first: a swirling siren of a synth that could easily be mistaken for a bomb raid siren. Compared to synths, bright pop guitar riffs are barely noteworthy, but they flesh out tracks like “Confession” and “Temptation” perfectly. For all its diversity, there is an atmospheric through-line at work. Opening with a minute’s worth of a rain storm, More Rain is decidedly gloomy and introspective, mostly in the realm of love. “Time Won’t Wait” shows the desperate side of things, with Ward yearning for “One soul to love me/ To hold me tight.” On lap steel love song “Phenomenon,” Ward gently croons “I just believe in you” in the face of naysayers and offers this quip: “If you can’t talk to your friends about it/ To a stranger it’s strictly taboo.” And then there’s seemingly some counter-advice being offered on “Confession,” as Ward sings “Anybody got a load that they need lifted?/ Anybody got a pain in their heart?/ There’s a place you can hide/ When they’re conspiring against ya.” Needless to say, Ward sounds a bit weather-beaten. With 15 albums to his name under multiple monikers, from She & Him to Monsters of Folk, it would be reductive to think that Ward’s sound could ever be definitively pinned down. That said, More Rain is one of his most sonically broad solo releases, spanning folk acoustics, love ballads, doo-wop and Ward’s version of a spiritual (“I’m Going Higher”). In terms of what Ward has given us in the past, there’s little that’s new, but little flourishes and some new elements keep the album fresh.