The first time I saw Portland-based singer/songwriter M. Ward I didn’t know anything about him. A friend said that he was “kind of like Dylan.” And speaking of Dylan, I watched Don’t Look Back for the first time the other day and it definitely solidified a few things for me, including but not limited to: 1. Dylan rules hard; 2. Joan Baez’s grip on sanity was more like a pinch without the benefit of an opposable thumb, and it was definitely in Vaseline-coated lab gloves; 3. London should always be filmed in black and white.
Anyway, that comparison turned out to be cosmetic at best, and really just plain wrong at worst. M. Ward (his first name is Matt by the way. I’ve always figured you don’t do the first name initial thing unless you’re a pretentious fuck, which doesn’t seem to be the case here, or you have a boating accident of a first name. So I was all ready for like Mahoopabacontitties Ward and got Matt) draws upon some of the same influences as Dylan, but, with his thick rasp and intricate guitar work, creates something entirely his own.
Everybody who reviewed this record when it actually came out — a list that would’ve included me if my desk were a little more organized — called it “timeless.” Seriously, like, everyone. It’s almost spooky. And by spooky I mean lazy writing and plagiarism. Anyway, in the proud tradition of lethargic, dubiously legal writing: this is a timeless record. Seriously. And if you think about that, it’s quite an accomplishment. Dylan did it (I tie it all together kids, even the sidebars). But think about the shelf-life of a lot of this stuff: Have you pulled out Teaches of Peaches anytime recently? Oh. You have? That sucks.
The key to this record’s ageless quality is in the honesty, and the honesty is in everything: the subtly compelling vocals, the tangible lyrics, the understated guitar. It’s a beautiful record from start to finish, thick with purpose and intelligence, and it moves seamlessly without ever really taking aim at a destination. Transfiguration of Vincent manages to simply float — above genres and timestamps –and ends up in a place all its own.