Written by Maria Arroyo
Producer, writer, and performer M. Ward releases his 10th album Migration Stories. For this particular project, he traveled to Quebec to record the stories of human migrants. He had the pleasure of working with Tim Kingsbury from The Arcade Fire, Richard Reed Parry, and Craig Silvey, a producer who has worked with the Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine. Ward describes the collection of songs as “11 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.”
There’s something to be said for making music as a release to talk about tough subjects or heartaches, but it always seems to make the most sense. Ward touches on this very idea when he talks about his relationship with music and writing. “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.”
As the first few songs start to play, immediately I hear a lot of his earlier influences from the Jazz Age. There is a lot of soul and blues intertwined throughout that is reminiscent of the stylings of musicians like Duke Ellington, King Oliver, and even Louis Armstrong. “Migration Of Souls” and “Coyote Mary’s Traveling Show” are mirror images of that. Ward has a way of creating very drastic dynamics that pair well with a seamless story from beginning to end. While his music is reminiscent of these idols, the most unique part about it is his ability to mix in some modern influences to make the sound all his own.
“Real Silence” changes the dynamics with a darker approach, while “Independent Man” feels more intimate and daring but in a sensual way. The same can be said for his other piece “Chamber Music.” It shares the same feelings of the previous song, but it tells the story from a more calming and contemporary position. It’s the way that he is able to take one idea, and see it from multiple perspectives that create for such a diverse story.
His song “Torch” also shares a similar feel, but with more enticing vocals. The classical guitar battling with the contemporary vocals shows his ability to weave his modern influences to traditional music.
Shifting the influence from the Jazz Age to a folk-like approach is his song “Steven’s SnowMan.” The acoustic guitar picking adds a different dynamic that the album had not yet had. It lightens up the mood, and again, showcases another side of his musical abilities. One of the instrumental tracks “Rio Drone” is a simple beauty. It’s nice and short but tells a full story through the instrumentation. I think his ability to have a mix of instrumental and non-instrumental songs in his album is the best way that he can mesh all of his influences and ideas into one cohesive album.
He ties a lot of his influences together and you can hear all of them throughout his work. His arrangements are stellar, and he has a very comforting voice. Production-wise, it’s all very well done, and just the experience that he had in creating this album itself is very special and unique and definitely something I think a lot of people would take a liking to.
Connect with M.Ward