Music

M. Ward - "Girl From Conejo Valley" (Singles Going Steady)

M. Ward shares a new single from his upcoming album More Rain, releasing March 4th via Merge Records.

Jedd Beaudoin: M. Ward manages to sound fresh with each of his records. The last one was pretty dark, this one seems, at least musically, brighter. Always great with the guitar sounds and the rhythm parts. Excited to hear what happens with the whole album. [8/10]

Timothy Gabriele: This kind of feels like a throwback to early '70s comedown California folk rock. It’s enough to mellow out those grasping for a mild buzz to secure their transition into parenthood or thirtysomething-ism, a mumblecore a Baumbach bent into hurdling past arrested youth. Having never listened to M. Ward before, this is generally what I imagined his music to be. I’m not opposed to the affinity for those mellow moods and the song itself is pleasant enough to not switch the dial, which I envision as an actual dial -- a circular tuner rather than a digital scan. I’m not even pressed by its whiteness. Enjoy at your leisure, but don’t expect it shift your consciousness. [6/10]

Steve Horowitz: The image of M. Ward playing guitar behind his head guitar underwater while wearing scuba gear makes perfect sense as this visually captures the sound of the music! Somehow the instrumentation evokes being immersed in, as the lyrics suggest, a soggy life that seems vaguely absurd and threatening with just a suggestion of love—maybe. It’s cool as long as you don’t get too serious. [8/10]

Dustin Ragucos: M. Ward might not weave something like the intricate Sufjan Stevens with "Girl From Conejo Valley", but goodness, doesn't this valley seem like a nice place to hover a copter over? The west settles its fine breeze in Ward's strings, and the feeling of an early episode of Sons of Anarchy brings its sentimentality to the mixture. Bring on some more, Ward. [7/10]

John Garratt: If words like "beautiful" and "amazing" can be used to describe this lazy, impotent slab of mush, then these youtube commenters should really come and survey my damaged basement. It's the same thing, only I don't exhale the word "girlfriend" in my most obnoxious sneer. [3/10]

Ryan Dieringer: M. Ward has always been somewhat of an anomaly in the folk world. His John Fahey-level fingerpicking skills earned him instant folk cred, while his double-tracked vocals and predilection for studio experimentation allowed folk fans to fly their freak flags a bit. As this track shows, he knows how to keep those fans happy. The reference in the refrain to an older favorite, “Helicopter", is certain to hit the right buttons when played live. What makes this track feel fresh though, is the Beck Mutations-styled drum break in the chorus, and the scattered synth motifs. M Ward has always been about writing great songs which work in any format, and this is yet another one for the pile. [8/10]

SCORE: 6.66

The Cigarette: A Political History (By the Book)

Sarah Milov's The Cigarette restores politics to its rightful place in the tale of tobacco's rise and fall, illustrating America's continuing battles over corporate influence, individual responsibility, collective choice, and the scope of governmental power. Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5. "Inventing the Nonsmoker".

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