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In 2006, it was hard to forecast that Jenny Lewis, Conor Oberst, and Matthew Ward would be this generation's go-tos for conventional folk-pop structure. Ten years on, however, it seems like a no-brainer. A Midwestern supergroup was covering 'Handle with Care', and were doing a harmonious job conjuring the Wilbury's classic malaise, after all.

Monsters of Folk, She & Him, and various other roots rock experiments later, it's a given that a new M. Ward record will sound like a hi-fi walk through the rock and roll hall of fame. Ward has several albums over proven that this approach can still involve thriftiness, but it's hard to take a sad song seriously after so much success, and Ward no longer cares to try. It's harder still to take a goddamn Christmas album with Zooey Deschanel out of the context.

These elements lower the stakes on More Rain, and the potential for boredom is more present than Ward's other releases. Calling these songs bad however, is way off the mark. On 'Pirate Dial', he warmly assures that "I can hear you." Ward is believable because we can also hear the guitar as if he's in the room with us. On 'Time Won't Wait Up,' the lyrical tropes are rescued by Ward's cramming together of the words "want someone to love me," turning the phrase into something that could be mistaken for a single word. Here amidst all the pep, this playful phrasing makes loneliness much less lamentable.

The brief mandolin inclusion on 'Pirate Dial' and 'Girl From Conejo Valley' also works wonders, though the tale told on the latter lacks closure in its reminiscence. 'Slow Driving Man', however, is the total M. Ward package: Orbison-esque stylings, robust arrangement, and that whispery vocal of his. It's also More Rain's longest song with an outro guitar solo that floats along like a breeze. Other songs seem rushed, particularly as the mangled, but rockin' solo gets faded out on 'You're So Good to Me' as if Ward and company were afraid of straying too far from palatable pop. The guy is one of our generation's best guitarists, so why not let the solos sprawl out?

Ward's guitar chops are hardly his only accolade. Few musicians once strictly regarded as "indie" have also written songs ubiquitous enough to be featured on an episode of HBO's Girls. Ward's 2016 torch is passed around between those two worlds of household rockist and classic mid-oughts Portlander; and More Rain is a graceful, though somewhat unrewarding member of that career. He's talented and experienced enough to do as he pleases, however, and it's difficult to remember that in the album's short, often candy-coated bursts of energy.

That said, we all need songs of elation as much as we need those of hardship. Closer 'I'm Going Higher' is a proclamation of just that, and Ward invites us to celebrate when his past ghosts may have wanted to hunker down and brood. Take it as a sign of intention that More Rain is coming into the world at the dawning of spring.

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