With his static-dusted voice and predilection for early rock antiquity, M. Ward has always come across as one of his generation's more understated bards. Interpreting the ever-deepening subtleties of his catalog generally requires repeated listens, and such is the case with his ninth solo effort, the appropriately moody More Rain. Easing in with a minute-long rainstorm soundscape, he leads off with the dreamy acoustic gallop of "Pirate Dial," a genial folk-pop hymn perfectly suited for the patient rotations of a vinyl long-player. A stuttering guitar groove on the Neko Case-aided "Time Won't Wait" quickens the album's pulse, setting up the similarly paced lead single, "Confession," a classic Ward track replete with a rich vein of warm backing vocals and soaring trumpet solo. Eerie doo wop vocals adorn the beautiful ballad "I'm Listening (Child's Theme)," then reprise sweetly on the lighter-toned "Little Baby." "Girl from Conejo Valley" seems at first like a fairly straightforward Ward track before the unexpected Moog synth hook in its chorus turns it into the catchiest track on the album. "Temptation" gets some nicely layered guitar thump courtesy of Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck, the latter of whom also adorns the gentle country ballad "Phenomenon" with some crafty mandolin. Ward's occasional tradition of covering a tune from rock's early days continues here as he puts his stamp on the Beach Boys' lighthearted 1964 classic "You're So Good to Me." It's the second time he's dipped into the Wilson brothers' catalog -- he released an instrumental version of Pet Sounds' "You Still Believe in Me" on his fourth LP -- and, though it seems like it ought to come across as some sort of trifling gimmick, there's something about his blend of playfulness and reverence that makes it work. Within Ward's canon, More Rain may not work overtime to distinguish itself, but like nearly all of his releases, it's a companionable listen with a lot of craft hidden under its layers.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger