For those who don’t already know, Matt Ward (or M. Ward) is preparing to release his new album, Hold Time on February 17th. The Portland native is known primarily for his star-studded outfit, She and Him. Ward plays alongside Zooey Deschanel, the half-musician half-actress who among other things recently took part in the latest Jim Carrey project, Yes Man. Meanwhile, Ward was spending his time making sweet warm melodies and ultimately shifting the business of releasing music.
Hold Time is a collection of Ward’s subtle and original head-in-the-clouds folk-style melodies, though a bit of room was saved for classics like “Rave On” and “Oh Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson. Stand-out tracks include “Jailbird,” a sweet rockabilly rhythm, “Hold Time,” a bluesy dream – something of a rare Lynchian cathartic moment, and “Outro,” a distorted lonesome instrumental that could have played around the scene of any American cowboy as long as it was his last. In these and other tracks Ward surely channels a few of his heroes, primarily Roy Orbison with his twelve-bar rhythm and shining mysterious reverb. But as talented and inspired as he is, Ward still managed to feature Deschanel, Lucinda WIlliams and The Decemberists’ Rachel Blumberg, thereby making an already good album great.
However, there’s a greater significance here. Since January 12th, the album has been streaming in its entirety on the NPR website for everyone to hear. It is difficult to say how something like this should affect sales, but it does allow most consumers who already have the ability to hijack the album to purchase the album based almost purely on their desire to support Ward and his music. It is almost in the same vein as the most recent Radiohead album, save for the millions and millions of dollars they already had before they made such a decision. In a world where “promotional tool” is beginning to sound more like “money pit,” could revenue from an album depend on volunteers? And what if any artists could survive in such a model? Well, worry about that later. Listen to Hold Time and love it.