Jim Ward | Quiet EP (Civil Defense League)

cd_jimward.jpg"On My Way Back Home" is a traveling song, complete with rhythmic guitar and a harmonica that makes you feel like you’re just an overfilled backpack and bus ticket away from some fantastic journey or its fantastic end.

 

 

 

I am a dichotomous thinker, obsessed with the ‘either-or.’ This is probably a bad thing when it comes to reviewing music, but I like to assume that there’s always a way to break things down to black and white…take songwriters, for example. I like to think that there are two kinds of great songwriters: the kind who often get swallowed by their own grand intentions and whose listeners sometimes get lost in the puzzle of spectacular though complex composition and poetry, or the kind who make an effort to keep things beautifully simple and universally specific. When you are lucky, you find a songwriter who can either toggle between the two with moderate success, or excel at one or the other notably.

Jim Ward’s new solo EP Quiet is a testament to successful songwriting and simple, unobtrusive compositions. Ward’s easy guitar and lilting piano make the record, for the most part, peaceful and lovely. The melodies are comforting though sometimes feel repetitive and uninspired. Vocally, his voice is simple and honest…no moments of overwrought overextension.

The first track, "On My Way Back Home," is a traveling song, complete with rhythmic guitar and a harmonica that makes you feel like you’re just an overfilled backpack and bus ticket away from some fantastic journey or its fantastic end. It’s a heartfelt and easy tune. The vocals are sincere and embody a sense of searching, feeling unfulfilled and coming to terms with an idea of home. As the song ends, you can almost imagine yourself standing on a doorstep somewhere, working up the courage to open the door and unload.

"Take It Back" sounds like the kind of song you’d put on a mix for someone you recently broke up with, but then not actually give it to them. Instead, you’d lock yourself in your bedroom, listen to it on repeat and work yourself into an emotional frenzy. With lyrics like, "Take it back/ All the love you claimed to give/ There’s no more/ It was hollow in the end/I don’t know how you can live anymore." It’s more than just lyrically bitter, it’s musically plain and feels akin to that scene in Say Anything when Lily Taylor’s character, Corey, sings terrible songs about her ex: "Joe LIES…when he CRIES!!!"

The third song, "Mystery Talks," is a solid track. The music has a noticeable sense of movement and resolve, but it ends too quickly and leaves you wanting more. "Coastlines" is a bouncy number with lingering lyrics and the soaring chorus, "I find it hard to turn you off when you’re not here/ And I find it hard to tune you out, to disappear…" The last track, "Easier Said Than Done," is weirdly reminiscent of a lullaby. It starts with soothing, soft vocals and a gently picked guitar. It drags a little toward the end, but smoothes out to end the record and leave you with a feeling of total calm.

As a whole, the EP has more wonderful moments than not, and if you’re familiar with Ward’s work in Sparta and At the Drive In, I think you’ll be interested to hear him excel as a sort of barebones, vulnerable performer. B+ | Mandy Jordan

RIYL: Iron & Wine, Sparta, At the Drive In

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