slowly through the night
slowly through the night is available from:
The album, Golden Future Time is released on January 28th (by Golden Future); and available to pre-order from:
Invested with a Radiohead-cum-Stevie Wonder admixture, this track sees the Vancouverian (sic.) at an effulgent high. With an Amber Moon kick and a Zurracapote (seductive) kiss; Ward is strolling a halcyon road. It is still only January; yet we may be witness to one of the best acts 2014 will offer.
IT has been a sort of interesting first few weeks to this year, for a number of reasons…
When I have looked into the pages of music journalism, many have predicted the ‘Albums of 2014’. I know many bands and artists will not lay out their intentions for a while, yet the predictions laid out are not filing me with huge intrigue. Aside from some much-needed releases from the likes of Jack White and (possibly) Radiohead, there is not a lot to get your teeth into. I have been searching around and trying to see what one can look forward to this year, and have not come up with too much. I feel the issue is that a lot of the best releases were unleashed last year- the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Daft Punk unveiled their L.P.s. The best and brightest from last year will probably not be putting out new music for another year or so, so it is left to a new wave of musicians to fill the gaps. I have stated in previous blogs about the relative merits of new music, and the potential growth factor of this genre. Last year I was excited by a small number of new artists and their music, whilst being left a little cold or indifferent to many more. Over the past few weeks I have heard enough to suggest that sapling talent could make a genuine challenge to the established cognoscenti. The band market has probably put up the most fierce and immidiate sounds, yet the solo realm is providing much fascination and excitement. I have reviewed some great solo female talent, as well as some diverse and original male talent, and today another sterling male comes to my focus. Before I get to the business of summing up and dissecting my featured artist, I will go into a bit more depth about the male solo sector. In so much as music journalists are keen to compare every new talent with an existing example, it is important to find the uniqueness and personality in each new act. Although artists such as Adele, Amy Winehouse, Jeff Buckley and Michael Jackson are for instance, they have already existed and amazed. These artists are better than any other potential soundalike could ever be, and are idols for a reason. I am not disappointed when I hear too much of another artists in someone’s voice, I just feel that if one is going to present themselves as such, they need to have a lot more in their arsenal. Part of my reticence and abhorrent rage has stemmed from the fact that there is still too much straight replication music. I have heard so many acts that are pretty much mimicking an existing act, and wonder why the hell they even bother? Anyone can- with a few exceptions- copy and get the voice of someone else (there is no singer that is impossible to replicate). The plain truth is that the original artist is always is the best, and if you are no more than a second-rate copycat, then your music career is going to be short and pointless. I shall not name names, but there are a huge amount of artists out there that are guilty of this sin of omission. Apologies for being a dog with a bone, but it is a particular issue with me, as new artists are supposed to inspire and influence as much as anything. If you look about the ocean of new music and hunt for potential parental figures, you are not going to want to latch onto someone whom is a pale replication. I have examined the female solo sector before, and will go into more depth about something directly relevant to me: the male solo genre. When I think of my top 5 male singers I think of Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke and Chris Cornell- diverse voices but each filled with power, range and beauty. I am always a little excited when a new male act employs a tiny semblance of one of these singers, yet annoyed when there is far too much influence. Jackson has that unassailable and unbeatable vocal sound: a childlike sweetness combined with an incredible power and range. Jeff Buckley is the man-angel and ethereal beauty. His phenomenal voice was crammed with beauty, trembling emotion and tenderness. Yorke, similarly possessed these facets, yet also employed (and still does) a snarling swipe; potent force as well as something quite unique. Chris Cornell is a roaring lion of a singer; one of the grunge gods whom is my casual link when thinking of my love of heavy metal. I can trace his voice from the metal icons and hear it is some modern-day rock singers, too. Mercury, to me, has a voice that is not as impossible (to replicate) as Jackson, yet is the king. His voice is everything that a singer’s vocal chords should possess. His huge power is an axiomatic point, yet something that you cannot ignore. The way with which Mercury could shift gears and emotions (within the space of a line) has not been equalled by anyone. I feel that it is because of his sheer majesty that no one has attempted to, or will be able to equal, his staggering peaks. Everyone else has their own favourite singers, yet mine are probably never going to be changed or altered. As much as I love these legends, I am always on the hunt for a new example that can make a claim for my soul. The way this is done will not be some derivation amongst my established favourites; or a codified amalgamation of strands of their vocals; nor a mutual indemnification the way it will happen is with something truly special and rare. I feel that this calendar year will see too many that are too close to an existing artist- foolish people them- yet there will be enough that have their own unique charm. In so much as the greatest songs and albums have not been matched over the last couple of decades, the greatest voices have also been undisturbed. Too many artists neglect important factors when assembling their music, identity and releases. The vocal projection is just a small percentage of the overall package. There is so much neglect when it comes to compositional integrity: making sure that the music is as compelling and fascinating as possible. The lyrics, too, need to contain enough personal interspersing as well as some detached observation. Even visual aspects such as album cover designs can go a long way to making an artist. If you spend enough time considering all of the pieces of the puzzle and dedicate enough focus to getting them right, then a truly worthy artist is unveiled. Pretty much any new artist or band has the potential to do anything. The voice can be stretched to indefatigable and unprecedented lengths; from a cooing soprano to a guttural and whiskey-soaked growl- be you male or female. It can foresee and foretell a myriad of differing emotions, from infantile regress, stark and naked emotion, through to vitriolic anger. Lyrics can be fantastical, autobiographical; filled with wit, nuance, love and thought-provoking psuedo-philosophy. Album and song titles can be compelling or endlessly curious. When fabricating your colour chart and mixing your spirits, multifarious and vivid results are possible. It is only when being truly ambitious and different that real change takes place- if you are content to be flat and listless, then music’s charm will capitulate and implode. This may all seem like a diversion from the beaten track, yet it leads me to the highways, back roads and landscapes of Canada.
When I have investigated and examined new music, I have not had the fortune of witnessing too many international talents. Over last year I heard some Swedish electro-pop; U.S. rock and sunshine bliss, as well as some Australian hard rock. Most of my time and attentions were firmly in the U.K., and as respectful and admiring towards homegrown talent as I am, I felt that it would have been nice to herald some foreign flair. North America is always producing a lot of great talent, yet it seems to be buried amidst the quagmire of manure that is the mainstream pop charts. For every turgid waste of life such as Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, there are examples such as (L.A.’s) The Open Feel, whom are being undervalued and having to fight hard for attention. Canada is not a country whose musical output is overly-familiar to me. Aside from legends such as Neil Young, there have not been too many new musical examples whom have been apparent to me. I know for a fact that there is a huge wave of new musicians working in Canada, and there are some fantastic bands and solo artists waiting to burst through. I am lucky enough to be reviewing a Canadian wonder today. Before I get down to some background regarding David Ward, I shall say this first: I hate this guy. Since listening to his track slowly through the night, I have not been able to shift the bloody song from my head. I shall be reviewing it anon, yet the fact that one song has become so imbedded in the obsession portion of my brain, says a lot. At this moment I am listening to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. In so much as it has been sadly over-covered by female artists as of late, I am going to bring the 57-year-old American into proceedings. Isaak is probably a perfect example with regards to my previous thesis, and someone I can use to help with regards to my David Ward hypothesis. Wicked Game is a perfect example of an artist whom takes a little of others, yet has the abiding air of a truly unique talent. He claims that “Strange what desire/Makes foolish people do“, yet it is words like this that stick in your mind. It is a song dripping in sweat and lascivious undertone. The song is lyrically economical, employing the right amount of potent words. Your mind is filled with images and scenes, and Isaak perfectly transports you somewhere mellifluous and romantic. The instrumentation and composition are tender and compelling, and perfectly scores his voice. The voice, itself, is a thing of wonder. It is man’s voice, yet one that can make a man tremble; it is a low-toned and seductive weapon that I have not heard equalled. The thing is this though: you can hear some Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison in there. It is true that Isaak’s influences are apparent, yet he manages to out-romance Orbison and sing sweeter than Presley could ever do. His themes (especially in Wicked Game and Blue Hotel) are very much his own. Orbison and Presley had different views of the aspects of love and heartbreak, and their projection and aesthete were as diverse as you can imagine. Isaak intersects the two, yet is in a field ager that is his alone. He is as relatable as he is original: the overall sensation one is left with it hard to describe. Ward is someone whom has some comparable merits and strands. I shall get more into his influences when reviewing his track, yet two names spring to mind: Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. There is a smidge of Buckley and Prince too, yet it is the aforementioned that are clearest. In spite of this, Ward is tactile and intelligent enough to strike on his own terms- with only a little hint of Jackson and Wonder. His compositions are diverse and fascinating. There is soul, blues, ’90s groove, ’90s rock, as well as modern-day electronic influence as well. Each track has a fascinating sonic backbone that augments and emphasises Ward’s words and voice. As a lyricist, Ward mixes original spins on love, literary reference and intelligence throughout. His new album, Golden Future Times, has been receiving a lot of buzz and excitement. It is an L.P. that has two distinct halves to it. Its first side, Lost, has been described as progressive and experimental, as well as rock-infused; employing some influence of late-’90s/early-’00s Radiohead-cum-Pink Floyd. The second half of the album, entitled Golden Future Time, is a different beast. Its veins and heart is soul-infused and steeped in historical and latter-day wonder. There is a shade of Stevie Wonder, hints of Michael Jackson, as well as flavours of the soul and blues greats of the ’60s and ’70s. Whereas most new artists put out an album that has a true ‘voice’ and is consistent throughout, Ward is brave and bold enough to present a record that is multi-layered and diffident. The nature of the songs is compelling and brilliant. Tracks focus on personal tragedy as well as all-encompassing love. Be Here is steeped in soul lustre and transcendent; the kind of track that Wonder stamped out in 1973/4. Bird in the Hand, meanwhile, is Wonder-ful; whereas mid-career Pink Floyd can be heard in other numbers. The album (Golden Future Times) will draw in people like me, in awe of albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, Bad, Grace and Kid A. There is a hypnotic blend of ’70s-current day U.K. rock greats, commingling with ’80s and ’90s U.S. greats. Few artists come out of the blocks with such ambition, range and quality. I shall go into more depth about the album later, but I want to finish by speaking about Ward himself. Ward is the central centrifugal force of the songs, yet is backed by some wonderful musicians. We have Andrew Peebles (drums), Mark Wilson (keyboards); Joseph Lubinsky-Mast (bass) and Dan Klenner (percussion). Together, the boys rustle up a Technicolor blitzkrieg of sound. When I was looking for some information on our hero, I found this from his official website: “Taking his cues from the past and with a vision towards the future, David Ward has created a portal to the spiritual, the dirty, the beautiful and the raw on his second solo album, Golden Future Time. Fresh off an acclaimed performance at the 2013 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Ward’s star is in the ascendant. Following up on 2012’s celebrated EP trilogy, The Arrival, he has readied a textured brew of the cosmic and earthy; a sonic exploration of the muse combining electronica, R&B, funk, art-rock, disco and cabaret. Cinematic in scope both musically and lyrically, Golden Future Time is a two-part saga created for the artistic opportunity of vinyl. Each side takes the listener through different worlds and genres without compromising quality or cohesion. Side A (Lost) was produced, engineered & mixed by Tom Dobrzanski (of The Zolas); Side B (Golden Future Time) was co-produced by David Ward and Andrew Peebles, and mixed by Anthony Dolhai (DiRTY RADiO). The album is set for release in Canada on January 28th, 2014“. It shows that the young man has a clear vision and a bold ambition, for sure. In terms of personal information, the pages of social media keep their cards to their chest. Our Canadian is in his 20s, and is a fine-looking fella indeed. He has a great range of influences, and has been wowing audiences throughout Canada for a while now. Aside from that, there is not too much to be found. Ward, it seems, wants only the music to be investigated and examined; little concerned with distilling its essence with personal heartache and inanity. At the moment, our young hero has relatively few followers across Twitter and Facebook. I am confident that the ensuring months will see Ward gain a huge following, and gain thousands more supporters. At the moment, Ward’s social media seems to be run by his management- providing little chance for fans to know more about the man directly. It is perhaps a minor criticism, but hopefully one that will be addressed shortly. For now, Ward is working hard on his music, and keen to let it be heard as far and wide as possible. Most of Ward’s fans emanate from the U.S. and Canada, but it seems that the U.K., Europe, Australia and beyond will all be jumping on the good ship Golden Future Time. The tracks that are contained within are universally inspiring and are songs that will speak to everyone. It is the passion and quality of Ward’s voice as well as the quality of the tracks themselves, that remain long in the memory. I have taken it upon myself to review a perfect distillation of Ward’s abilities.
It is not often that the intro. to a track gets you standing to attention. Most songs take a little longer to bed in, or reveal their charms later on; yet slowly through the night is a track that strikes hard right from the off. The initial seconds of the song tempt you softly in. Beginning with a few seconds of near-silence, Ward builds in a little soft electronic swirl and whispered audio. It is Peebles’ percussive beat that hits next. It is almost like measured gunfire, in the way that he rifles the drum slams, almost with Morse Code precision and temporized consideration. It is a calling card that sets up the next stage of the intro., which is a gorgeous and swooning keys segment. The sound is pure soul, as one is put in mind of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. Ward’s take is a low register and slower jam, yet the quality and resonance is comparable and tangible. When combined by the solid and forceful percussive beat, the two combine to summon up a sexy, slinky and funky coda. As much as you might think of Wonder or soul greats, there is also a sense of Radiohead’s Amnesiac. I heard a little bit of I Might Be Wrong within the intro. too, which excited me. There are no clear-cut or obvious references within the intro., and you’d have to be a severe anal-retentive to pick up on anything obvious. Ward and his men create something that is less an amalgamation and codification of past masters, but a fitting and splendid opening, which builds curiosity and gets the listener on a natural high- from the embryonic moments. Your mind and attention is enraptured within the musical opening, unaware of how effective and potent the ensuing vocal is going to be. When it- the vocal- arrives at 0:30, there is instant wonder. Ward’s soft and gorgeous falsetto implores, explores and seduces, as he confesses: “Please don’t take me now“. The line is delivered with a one second pause between each word, so that the line is delivered with effective regard. When repeated, Ward elongates the ‘now’; his voice down to a silky and delicate whisper. That word comes into play for a third time, on this occasion not lengthened, just punctuated. The way Ward delineates and delivers his words, is impressive indeed. From just one line alone, a huge sense of consideration and momentum has been projected. After a short audio interlude, Ward is back on the mic. and shape-shifted and evolved. Whereas before the vocal was falsetto-infused and slow-paced, now he switched to a distorted and tenor-range shift; the pace is staccato and tumbling; his words are syncopated and- almost- rapped. There is much intrigue to be found in his words: “hide us under the floor so they’ll never know, but we’re all enemies here ’cause the fear is sown, can’t trust our own“. It is uncertain what our hero is referring to, yet is seems that there is personal relevance and inspiration to be heard. Before the next sermon, a light and scene-setting sonic line is revealed. That delicate and evocative guitar mixes splendidly with a steady and restrained percussive measure. Ward has retreated from the spotlight, yet comes running back in, bringing more news and truth: “catch me by surprise then it’s always the same, dress it up in disguise, I’ll remember the names… and keep wearing the shame“. There is a certain detachment and obliqueness to the lyrics, yet it seems that our hero is keeping his direct emotions in check. Some people have clearly hurt and affected Ward, yet the way that it is characterised and personified is clever and effective. Just as we think there is going to be a third incarnation of this lyrical theme, the ‘chorus’ returns. The beautiful and floating vocal returns, and the mood shifts once more. When the next chorus comes into view, the imagery one rustles up is quite vivid: “keep the keys to the kingdom, jangle them high, we’ll keep thinking in circles, the gramophone mind…keeps buzzing in time“. I imagined a tempestuous and fraught sweetheart teasing and frustrating Ward; keeping happiness at bay for some reason and contended to continue down a frustrating path. Everyone will come to their own conclusions (and summon their own images); such is the ambiguity and openness of the lines. Again Ward spits and smashes his words, ensuring that they hit their marker, and stick inside your brain. An elliptical refrain is roundly roused, given enough time for the lyrical tumble to sink in, before we are back inside Ward’s psyche: “I’m pushing ahead, I’ll take the blame, just leave me enough in this ugly refrain…so I can go home again“. Ward has divorced some anger from his mandate, yet there is clearly regret and frustration under the surface. He is keeping going, but taking blame undeservidly; just looking to keep going and get away from things. Whether the lyrics refer directly to a failed or existing relationship, or have their origins somewhere less personal I am unsure. So many artists are too direct and unsophisticated with regards to their lyrics- leaving nothing to the imagination. Ward leaves room for mobility, so that everyone that listens will draw their own conclusions and visual projections. The final 80 seconds of the song are reserved for sonic exploration. Ward has said all he wants to reveal, and allows himself and his compatriots time to enforce some musical lustre. Twinkling and rippling electric guitar cohabit with steady and peppered percussive beats; the guitar sound mutates into something darker and more disgruntled- imagining we are coming into land. Just then, the mood and energy is picked back up. A jittering and weaving electric guitar line is then presented. On my first listen I was reminded of the song Kanga-Roo, when performed by Jeff Buckley. If you listen to its outro. when he played it live, there is a similar energy and sound one can detect. If you watch Live In Chicago, Buckley would be plucking at his guitar, skipping and dancing around the stage, interjecting “Wa…hoo“s into the mix, with gleeful abandon. I imagined Ward was probably a bit more reserved in the studio, yet that palpable sense of kick and joy are present. Around the 2:50 point, a percussive teeing-up and strike adds extra weight and gravitas to the sound, and once again introduces a new time shift and mood. The sound gets heavier and snowballs; whipping up its own gravity. Songs like I Want You (She’s So Heavy) earned their stripes with phenomenal outros. that repeated a line or sound, and made sure that sound kept building and rising. Ward does not cut the song dead like The Beatles did, yet gracefully takes it down. With a little cosmic infusion (a wee touch of Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead?), the track is complete. I began the review pretty much accusing Ward of infesting my brain, due to the memorability and catchiness of the song. It is the darndest thing. The 3:38 track manages to shift mood, sound and pace so much that your mind is constantly engaged, surprised and stretched. We begin with some blues and funk, segway into some harder edges rock/rap, before ending with some punk-laced guitar-and-drum. Interspersed is some golden-voiced implore from our hero, meaning that a hell of a lot of ground is covered. In the way that Ward restlessly moves and weaves is incredible, and the sonic accompaniment is no inferior species- it is as striking and brilliant as the vocals. As a lyricist, Ward does not use too many words, and actually dedicates more time to letting the composition itself to impress. His ‘band members’ are elementary, backing up our hero, and incorporating momentum, emotion and wonder into the melting pot- without overwhelming the sound or coming off as too imposing. I fear I may need electroconvulsive therapy or a bare-breasted distraction to ever shift the song from my head; although I fear it may not be that easy. With just one song, I have been compelled to seek out Ward’s back catalogue and wait with bated breath for his L.P.’s release. Golden Future Time is a oddessey of self-reflection and investigation, and offers so much to the honest listener. slowly through the night is not a synonymous of signature sound, instead just one (of many) different sensations and sounds. There are other upbeat and catchy songs on the album, yet there are plenty of romantic and introspective tracks; some complex and strange moments; plenty of joy mixing with reflection. slowly through the night has some light touches of singers such as Jackson, Buckley and Yorke; as well as some musical evocations of Radiohead and Stevie Wonder, yet none of these artists ever penned a song like this: it is Ward’s work and his alone.
Okay, then. Having absorbed the near-masterpiece from David Ward, I am strangely in two minds. The mark of a great and worthy artist is one whom inspires others. Having listened to Ward’s music, I have been compelled to write and devise my own songs. Haven’t already penned an E.P.’s worth of material, I find myself filled with fresh ideas- inspired by slowly through the night. I have often found- not being able to read or write music- it hard to write direct and original compositions, yet have sketched and drafted some rather interesting ideas. To be honest, I am a little angry that I have not heard of Ward before. Social media and the music press tends to be several steps behind logic, when it comes to proffering the worth of truly great musicians. Most of the music acts I reviewed in 2013, I encountered second (or third)-hand, and had been making music for months. In Ward’s case, he has been on the scene for a little while, yet his name and reputation seems to be insulated and contained within his native land. The U.K., Europe and Australia are areas that have as much influence and fans-in-waiting as anywhere else in the world, and it is essential that action is taken. I myself have little influence or power, so it is down to the larger publications and sites to do their bit, and work harder at promoting international acts. Too much focus and consideration is given to ‘mainstream’ acts; a lot of which is pure tripe. It seems that too many acts are being cast asunder and passed over, for no reason or logic. Anyway, I shall leave that ‘rant’ for another day, and summarise, thus: Ward is a serious name to watch this year. Ward has completed two tours of the U.K., yet I have only just been made aware of him. I hope a third tour is in his mind, as I am desperate to see him live. Reviews have been glowing, it seems. Clash have said the following: “It’s all about the voice…David Ward is blessed with a high, trailing singing voice, the sort of thing which could recite the phonebook and have an audience in tears”. When it comes to slowly through the night, Q explained: “Hailing from Vancouver, David Ward not only possesses a stunning voice like Jeff Buckley’s, but his compositions, like on Slowly Through The Night, are, similarly, as expansive and operatic as the much-missed singer-songwriter’s. His new single marks the emergence of a very special artist indeed”. The quoted snippets contain no hyperbole or false assurance, as Ward has an incredible voice. There should not be too much focus on his vocal ability, as that would suggest that the music, lyrics and overall sound are second-best. This is not the case, as Ward’s album is awash with wonderful sounds, memorable songs- which begs for repeated listens. Although it seems that Ward’s social media sites are management-driven, it is best left to the listener to come to conclusions. Take in mind the reviews that have been written, yet go into his music with a clear mind- and open arms. Ward is in the process of recording songs for a new E.P., and it seems that his creative energy is untamed and bustling. I cannot wait to hear what is forthcoming, as on the strength of his current L.P., it will be a cracker. The Fly summarised Ward, thus: “On paper, David Ward’s sprawlingly ambitious mix of Jeff Buckley-esque, quasi-operatic angst with ’70s soul sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. But ‘Golden Future Time, the Canadian songwriter’s shortly-to-be-released second solo album, has the chops to pull it off — though the latest track to be culled from the record, ‘Lost’, actually puts us more in mind of Pink Floyd. Either way, it’s a slow-burning treat…”. In my opinion, one should not instantly compare Ward to anyone else, or have any preconceived notions of his sound and sensation. If you do, then there is the danger that your opinions will be preconceived and predetermined; if you let the music enforce your opinions, then the overall listening experience is enhanced. Our young hero has a talent for penning songs that lodge in your memory, whether it is due to the catchiness or sheer emotional force, you cannot help but be impressed. The male solo realm is one that is frequented by a multitude of players and participants, and there is often little to recommend or get excited about. There are too many vague and lifeless solo artists whom are as contended to be as generic and bland as possible. The cliché of the twentysomething lone artist, acoustic guitar in hand, crooning about love departed, is something that is overworn and tiresome. There is room in the market for male (and female) solo artists, yet if you are coming to play, then at least be spectacular- or vastly different. I have always shrugged and felt a part of me die, when faced with a great number of solo artists. Luckily, examples such as David Ward are given me something to get excited about. Ward is not a songwriter contended to be like everyone else, and provide the minimum of fascination and quality. His music is synonymous with potential, range, excitement and passion and he is an artist that has a bright and long future ahead. If you are not a fan of the type of artists Ward is inspired by, it is well worth listening to his music. Ward is not the sum total of his idols, and not the square root of critical feedback and expectation. Here is a young man who has his own unique blend, his own sound, and the results are impressive and spectacular. Our hero may be walking slowly through the night; yet when it comes to this year, Ward will be enjoying…
GOLDEN future time.
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