Transistor Radio
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Product Description

From a half-named troubadour with an otherworldly voice and an old time sensibility comes this fourth full-length, a collection of songs "about childhood memories of a utopian radio power", dedicated to "the last of the remaining independent radio stations." With songs normally associated with the front porches of Louisiana, back when families gathered around the radio instead of the TV, "Transistor Radio" fits somewhere between your great-grandfather's collection of 78 rpm records and current and timeless artists such as Iron & Wine, Gram Parsons, and Tom Waits. Guests include Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), and Jordan Hudson (The Thermals).

Transistor Radio may be bookmarked by instrumentals, but M. WardĄŻs cracked, jazzy croon is the true star of all his work. The sixteen tunes here all sound like sketches that became songs on the spot, and we all know the well-crafted illusion of spontaneity is a very difficult thing to pull off repeatedly. His most consistently enjoyable album to date, Transistor offers breezy, smart, poppy music very much in the American folk tradition, from country blues to bleary-eyed bedroom strums. This is the soundtrack to a lazy Sunday when you sleep in, read the Times in bed, cuddle with a friend, then finally leave the house for cheese grits. "IĄŻll Be Yr Bird" sounds like the Fruit Bats collaborating with Vic Chesnutt, while Ward recalls Stew on "Hi Fi," the deadpan lyrics over lazy, lovely sounds: "Why burn your bridges when you can blow your bridges up?" The laudanum-like charms of WardĄŻs music are tough to resist. --Mike McGonigal

Customer Reviews:

  • Lonesome Fuel
    I first discovered Matthew Ward on `The Transfiguration of Vincent' (2003), which became one of my favourite albums of that year. I've waited eagerly for the follow-up which has finally arrived in the form of `Transistor Radio: Memories Of A Utopian Radio Power'

    Matthew Ward is similar in my opinion to old Blues, Gospel and Folk singers of a bygone era, which makes him sound in a way kind of familiar. His voice has what I would refer to as a fragile rasp and sometimes, husky quality similar to Crosby, Stills & Nash with elements of Mississippi John Hurt. Musically this is well produced yet minimal giving these songs an open airy sound. `Transistor Radio' opens with an instrumental cover of the Beach Boys `You Still Believe In Me' before the album gets underway. Standout tracks in my opinion are `Fuel For Fire' and `Lullaby + Exile'. Lyrically these all these songs have a world-weary optimistic approach.

    I discovered Matthew Ward through listening to Devendra Banhart, Iron &Wine, Grandaddy and Sparklehorse. If you like any of these I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy here, although it's closer in content to the first two with the production of the latter. Check out M. Ward's previous record `The Transfiguration of Vincent' also, which contains an excellent fragile cover version of David Bowie's `Lets Dance'.
    ...more info
  • A modern master
    I've known and marvelled at Matt's music for almost 15 years now and continue to enjoy his incredible sense of tone and timing. It's not enough to be a monster guitar player (he is), but my astonishment is not when somebody tries to overwhelm you with their skill but underwhelm you with their sense of musical composition with the steady knowledge that, yes, they can rip it up with pretty much anybody but choose instead to woo you gently through their songs. Matt achieves this; his vocal and guitar style is as unique as Tom Waits, Greg Brown, or Van Morrison. I occasionally hear a new song played on the radio and instantly know it's Matt Ward, and I always smile in the process. Wonderful music for calm sunsets, a glass of wine, and wonderful companions. Please check out his early works, and if possible, see him live. ...more info
  • Grows on you, leaves you wanting more M. Ward
    I was first exposed to M. Ward's work through his 200 release Post-War, which I found to be one of the year's best. So I instantly started diving back to his earlier material. "Transistor Radio" was my first choice and one that I don't regret. This is not an album that comes to you immediately, but one that grows on you if you give it a chance. It certainly is not meant to be listened to if you are in a rush, or for the drive to work. This is by all means an album to chill out to and simply enjoy with your undivided attention. Some people say it's for a lazy Sunday afternoon, others say it's for the Saturday morning coffee: I think it works quite well on a Sunday evening too (at least in Florida as the spring is upon us).

    The themes in here are simple, loaded with a folk/americana feel to them and with a basic production that gives the album a transistor radio-like feel. When you finish the closing tracks, "Well-Tempered Clavier" (composed by J.S. Bach and masterfully interpreted by Ward in the guitar), you are simply ready for more: be it more M. Ward or playing the album again....more info
  • Beyond Definition but Astounding: This is one to Buy
    M Ward's Transistor Radio is an eclectic mix of genres that is captivating in its beauty and scope. If I needed one word to describe the album it would be ethereal. With influences both classical and popular this album hearkens back through the years giving it an ultimately timeless feel. I highly recommend this one.

    Transistor Radio opens up with "You Still believe in me" which showcases Wards musical ability with this purely American tune that is reminiscent of Bluegrass and Folk. And of course worthy of note is his cover of Louis Armstrong's "Sweethearts on Parade". I am always fearful when an artist sets out to cover Armstrong. It usually sounds more like a mockery than serious art. But Ward is so focused and creative that he can pull it off making the work something entirely new while still keeping the feel of the Armstrong original. Lastly, I must mention "Fuel for Fire" which is exemplary of wards haunting vocals and "Four Hours in Washington" with its shuffling rhythm sound like a Tom Waits song.

    M Ward is a true artist and this is a great work. If I had to compare him to anyone it would be to Tom Waits. They both have a real knack for mixing genres and adding subtle hints and allusions to other styles and songs. They are both true American Artists. Transistor Radio has wide appeal and I think fans of "emo" to fans Billie Holiday will find this a great album. M Ward is one to watch and this is a super album. Buy a copy today.

    Ted Murena...more info
  • Keep your overhyped, manufactured dreck. . .
    M. . . Matthew. . . has soul. My wife and I saw him a few weeks ago in a venue that you can only describe as a tool shed in a parking lot, really. (Kilby Court, SLC) He was absolutely stunning.

    I could not disagree more with the "Pseudo Dave Matthews vibe" comment made by wm "wordmule" Uh. . . Pseudo means fake. I can only assume that the comment was an attempted complement, as you gave him 5 stars, BUT. . . As Dave Matthews is the music industry sell-out poster child, and has not even been interesting for a decade, his "vibe" does not approach m.ward's purity. End of Amnesia is also a VERY good album. And, if you can get your hands on his cover of Daniel Johnston's Story of an Artist- you will be amazed. ...more info
  • springboard
    What Elvis did with Junior Parker, the Stones did with Howlin' Wolf, M. Ward has done with Louis Armstrong. Why didn't I think of that?...more info
  • WOW, what a cool album!
    Now, I don't normally put on a new album and start loving it right away, but that is exactly what M Ward's Transistor Radio did for me.

    This has so much diversity, from the beautiful acoustic sounds of the opening and closing tracks, to the chugging, swinging boogaloo of "Big Boat," to the dark "Sweethearts On Parade."

    While nailing down M Ward's sound is nearly impossible, I'll try: a one-man version of the Band; a stoned-on-laudenum-too-but-happy-too version of Iron & Wine; a fresher, less-cryptic version of early '70s Dylan.

    I don't want to weigh the guy down with ridiculous expectations, but this and his second album End Of Amnesia are the tonic for today's decrepit music industry - heartfelt, well-written songs that express something besides the popular post-modern gloom (sorry Radiohead/Modest Mouse fans).

    Just listen to the instrumental cover of the Beach Boys' "You Still Believe in Me." You'll see - it doesn't get much better than that. Buy this. Support the birth of real artists....more info
  • Numero Uno 2005
    I've bought a lot of overhyped albums over the last couple of years but this one took me off guard. Quietly hypnotic and self reflective yet not overbearing or pretentious. This album draws from a lot of influences but I would just consider it modern folk music that succeeds at being both experiemental and traditional at the same time.

    I don't think there's whole lot I can say about the album that hasn't already been said by the other reviewers. What it all comes down to are the quality of the songs and the songs on this album are top shelf material. I don't know where the comparisons to Dave Matthews came about but I can assure you this is nothing like Dave Matthews. This album is reminiscent of Neil Halstead's 2002 release 'Sleeping On Roads', which is great also....more info
  • soundtrack for real life
    I read a review of M. Ward's "Transistor Radio" album in the 3/14 issue of Newsweek magazine. I was intruiged enough to hop on over to Amazon to see what more I could find out about this M. Ward, and see what my ears could hear. After getting a small taste of each track, I was compelled to purchase the album.
    When it arrived, I played it. And played it. And played it. I have become enchanted, entranced and mesmerized. The album title describes it best: songs deriving their essence from the station hopping of yesterday's radio. Somehow,it doesn't matter what's going on in our house, this album matches the activity. First thing in the morning, last thing at at night, driving from here to there and everywhere in between, kicking back and taking time to soak in every note, this album magically fits it all. How? I couldn't tell you. But it does.
    It is now several days later, and I've found myself back at Amazon, purchasing yet another copy of this album. This time for another redhotmama who enjoys true, real, musicianship with a twist of life thrown in. Be a believer. Buy the album.
    ...more info
  • This one has got it all
    This CD is one of my all time favorites. It has all the elements of music that I love - beautiful sounds, soul-provoking smart lyrics, some rhythm, and variety. ...more info
  • Best pop album I've heard in a long time
    This is one of most texturally rich and inventive pop music albums I've heard. I'd put it up there with any album I've listened to in the last 30 years. M Ward is an outstanding musician whose bank of pop musical knowledge is immense and goes back many decades. With this CD, Mr. Ward vaults to the upper echelon of the pop music world (not in sales, but in artistic expression). There is an effortless inventiveness here that you see in only a handful of musicians. It's the rare kind of album that gets better the more you listen. Joe Henry. Elvis Costello. Nirvana. Randy Newman. These are the caliber of people/bands M Ward stands with in my book. If you want something for a casual listen - the Dave Mathews/Jack Johnson crowd - this CD probably won't work for you. But if your tastes run to meaningful music that demands careful listening, you'll love this album. Transistor Radio is a gem....more info
  • one of the best albums of all time
    i came across M. ward unexpectedly at a white stripes concert, where he was the opening act. He completely blew me away, so i went out and bought this album. This album is haunting and poignant, while being beautiful and, for lack of another good adjective, kind of weird. M. Ward has a rough voice but it complemetns his guitar playing excellently. Songs such as "I'll be Yr Bird", "Fuel For Fire" and "Here COmes the Sun Again" are all amazing songs, though i personally like "4 hours in Washington", a creepy song about insomnia, and "Big Boat", and though i have no clue what its about, its funny/clever. Most of this album is M. Ward playing acoustic guitar and singing, but on some of the songs he has piano, drums, and bass. I dont really know how to describe this album, but to say it sounds like some amazing blast from the far past. and that sounded cheesy, but you must buy this album. now. Buy It....more info
  • Another Timeless Album by Matt Ward
    Mr. Ward manages to release an album that maintains the timelessness of Transfiguration of Vincent, his indescribable and impeccable previous release. Transistor Radio is a collection of short songs that isn't as cohesive as his previous release, but as you move from song to song you understand this is by design. Each song is crafted not simply from folk and bluegrass but also 50s AM radio, the saloon cabaret of studio-era Hollywood, and good old-fashioned indie rock.

    I think what makes M. Ward most appealing is how effortlessly he plays and sings, giving you the feeling that these songs were conceived and recorded in a single take. Ward is a "true" songwriter and at no point do you feel he's following or trying to create a trend by resurrecting a sound from the past. This album along with his previous releases gives me plenty of ammunition when defending a genre that has been so poorly mistreated....more info
  • Timeless.
    Transistor Radio is easily one of the best albums I've heard in the past few years. It was my first exposure to Matt Ward, and I have since purchased his two previous albums. The songs have an old-timey feel and mainly features just Ward's voice, guitar, some piano, and light percussion. The songs are simple and the lyrics are great. "Lullaby + Exile" is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard. "Big Boat" is catchy and tough not to sing along to. Songs like "Hi-Fi," "One Life Away," "Paul's Song," and "Fuel for Fire" are incredible. Really, every song is as good as the last. The instrumentals (there are 3) are good, but not highlights for me. Other than that, this is one of the most pleasing albums I have ever heard. M. Ward's raspy voice isn't too far off from Louis Armstrong, and his gentle guitar playing is soothing. If you like great song writing and folky pop, you'll love this. I even turned my parents on to M. Ward. I can't recommend this more highly, and it's a crime that Matt's music is not more well-known....more info
  • you'll like this
    M. Ward's elegy for the era of radio is his finest, most confident recording yet. Highly recommended....more info
  • Quietly intense
    This is my first exposure to M. Ward. Glad I ran across him via a recent Starbucks sampler he contributed to of all things. Sometimes he's grooving on Tom Waits, next Marc Bolan, then Louie Armstrong(how's that for coming out of the left field of influences?), then George Harrison, then acoustic Beck, all with a pseudo Dave Matthews vibe going on. Nick Drake's shadow looms large over the proceedings too. Intense, eclectic, cool stuff. This is the kind of musician who's doing it because he's into it, not because he wants to become a "star" or make huge amounts of money and fame. Having said that, he deserves all that and then some....more info
  • Old Timey Goodness.
    Most of the album's songs mainly consist of double guitars; one strumming in the background and the other playing short sweet riffs. Sounds great for a relaxing scenic drive down to the Homeplace. It gives an "old timey/appalacian" feel, as if it would fit perfectly on the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. #7 is a cover of Bach, really interesting. #8 is mostly piano, reminds me of "Linus & Lucy" from Charlie Brown. Too many filler tracks on the end. Suggested tracks are 1, 2, 4, 6, 8....more info
  • Awesome, Hypnotic, as usual
    This was the 3rd M. Ward album I got. If you haven't any of his stuff, this wouldn't be a bad start, but Post War might be a little more "Beginner Friendly." Anyways, this is a solid album.
    You still believe in me-A beautiful instrumental version of the 2nd track of Pet sounds; "Beachy" and Beautiful, a strange combination
    Hi-Fi -Fun and poppy, cool guitar
    Big Boat-subtly funny, upbeat
    Paul's song-I love this song, probably my favorite. I saw him play this at the Orange Peel in Asheville. A great Driving song! It reminds me of Paul Bunyan
    Here Comes the sun again-The Reason I bought the CD. I think it's an answer to Nick Drake's "Pink Moon." Look up on Youtube "M. Ward, Cadillac," and compare it to VW's Cabriolet commercial featuring Nick Drake
    Oh Take Me Back- A Carter Family cover, I had this stuck in my head for days. Goes along well with his style.

    All in all, an awesome cd, it may take a few listens, but I definitely recommend it....more info
  • Grows on you, leaves you wanting more M. Ward
    I was first exposed to M. Ward's work through his 200 release Post-War, which I found to be one of the year's best. So I instantly started diving back to his earlier material. "Transistor Radio" was my first choice and one that I don't regret. This is not an album that comes to you immediately, but one that grows on you if you give it a chance. It certainly is not meant to be listened to if you are in a rush, or for the drive to work. This is by all means an album to chill out to and simply enjoy with your undivided attention. Some people say it's for a lazy Sunday afternoon, others say it's for the Saturday morning coffee: I think it works quite well on a Sunday evening too (at least in Florida as the spring is upon us).

    The themes in here are simple, loaded with a folk/americana feel to them and with a basic production that gives the album a transistor radio-like feel. When you finish the closing tracks, "Well-Tempered Clavier" (composed by J.S. Bach and masterfully interpreted by Ward in the guitar), you are simply ready for more: be it more M. Ward or playing the album again....more info
  • Call Me a Hard Grader
    I'd even boost this to 4.5 stars, but giving it a full 5...I just can't get there. Maybe because Transistor Radio is a little TOO low energy, not enough creative tension.

    Regardless, this is a CD to have and dedicating it to the last of the independent radio formats is exactly right. It doesn't fit anywhere but there and you listen to it and wish it would fit everywhere. M. Ward still has his weirdnesses (check out One Life Away, which is either the singer walking on the grave of his dead girlfriend or singing up to his live girlfriend, and from either perspective captures in a sweet song the sometimes infintesimal difference between the living and the dead.), but Transistor is much more accessible than his other works. Sometimes it lightly swings a la some fifties jazz trio (Deep Dark Well). If you've downloaded Big Boat you've got perhaps the least typical -- and, along with Four Hours in Washington -- the noisiest song on the CD. The three instrumentals, where I hear some John Fahey, some Dick Dale and some Ry Cooder, begin (You Still Believe in Me), close (Well-Tempered Clavier) and divide (Regeneration #1) the CD. There is not a bad cut here, but most of my favorites come toward the end: Paul's Song, Here Comes the Sun Again, I'll Be Yr Bird and Lullaby + Exile.

    Last thought: Transistor Radio will find its way into a lot of Best of 2005 lists as surely as it insinuates itself into your head. ...more info
  • M. Ward Sends A Postcard From the Age of Innocence
    Matt Ward's luminous new CD is a faded message from a beautiful dream that begins to dissipate in our memory the moment we awake. A postcard sent from the age of innocence that reminds us of how uncorrupted we once were. Deja vu for the jaded generation living in the age of corruption, lies and Bushspeak. "Transistor Radio" is the appropriate title because it evokes the age of poplar music, when the means of listening to portable music consisted of one ear pressed against transistor radio. Long ago we could be dazzled by the beauty of song that shimmered through the static of a distant signal picked up by a transistor radio. This modern world is different and everything we do is defined by high tech digital overkill and electronic elitism. Today's commerical music is defined by the use of I-pods, headphones, and all of the attendant bells,whistles and electronic gadgetry, yet none of the music resonates with the power of those long forgotten chestnuts we heard on our transistor radios. The power of M. Ward is the his sincerity and reverence for the finely sculpted musical material and pre-digital studio techniques that many Gap generation fashionistas would regard as retrograde. Those who dismiss the charm of Ward's music, are the same folks who rely music telvision and youth targeted advertising to tell them what is hip. To his credit, M. Ward distances himself from those who buy into the megacorporate definition of "alternative" rock.

    Some of Ward's originals and well chosen covers (including the vintage Louis Armstrong jewel, "Sweethearts On Parade") contain a timeless quality and warm analogical fidelity of Smithsonian field recording. The rock oriented material has charming "first-take, no redos" production quality that echoes the old garage band ethic: your first take of a song will always be the most spontaneous and heartfelt take of the recording session, no matter how ragged it sounds. "Regeneration #1" has the reckless abandon of surf band gone berserk on L.S.D. "Big Boat" sounds like an outtake from a 1956 rockabilly session at Sun Records. "Paul's Song", "Radio Song" and "Here Comes the Sun Again" are the kind of winsome songs that M. Ward excels at. Ward's plaintive vocals and the sparse instrumentation are blissful. His musical command of country, blues, jazz fretwork recalls the complexity of John Fahey's self-styled "primative American guitar."

    The enigmatic M. Ward has been around for nearly a decade, counting his time with the trio, Rodriquez. Mainstream popularity has eluded Ward, but I doubt he entertains any illusions about the desirability of commercial success. Like many indie artists, Ward has seemed content to remain on the fringe of popular music playing to a handful of loyal fans. "Transistor Radio" may change Ward's cult hero status, whether he likes it or not. It's simply an album that is too good to escape the attention of a broader audience. If "Transistor Radio" makes a star of him, it's a good bet that M. Ward will not modify his unique talents to meet the demands of the marketplace. It's a reassuring that M. Ward may well build something like a career as a musician on his own terms. It would be a remarkable feat, in the hostile environment of today's megacorporate, Dow Jones driven pop music market, run by the Axis of Evil: the six major international music labels. ...more info
  • Good, not life-changing
    This album by M.Ward is pretty solid with some standout tracks ("Hi-Fi" is my favorite, but "One Life Away", "Fuel for Fire", "Four Hours in Washington"), and some weaker ones. On the whole, Transistor Radio could have benefited from a little less attention to spacey production values and more attention to songwriting. To me, the major emphasis of the album we less the songs, and more about using a variety of Lo-Fi production values to evoke a vague, dreamy nostalgic feeling. The arrangements are by and large interesting and engaging, but often things are obscured by too much reverb, most especially M. Ward's vocals, which are laconic, breathy, and drowned in too much echo to have energy or cut through the mixes. Reverb is a taste thing, but in my opinion it distracts from the stronger songs on the album and fails to help the weaker ones. There are some songs like "I'll Be Yr Bird" and "Oh Take Me Back" that seem to rely almost entirely on Lo-Fi production values to hold the listener's interest, but fell flat. I think the energy on this album could be a bit better, and with some slightly altered production values, cut a few songs, and add in some more of M.Ward's tasteful guitar arpeggiations and some more vocal harmonies it could have been a 5 star album. I'll look forward to M.Ward's next effort, and hopefully it will be a little stronger on songs and a little weaker on reverb. ...more info