More Rain (Merge)
He’s covered Louis Armstrong, Daniel Johnston, David Bowie and Bach. He’s recorded Christmas albums with Zooey Deschanel. And for 15 years, M. Ward has also been one of the country’s best songwriters, though at times less a songwriter and more of a mood, something you put on and let drift through the house. Aptly, More Rain starts with a curtain of drizzly ambience before Ward’s burbling guitar and charming, wounded rasp float to the surface. He sings of voices drifting on a “Pirate Dial” while embodying such a voice, at once distant and intimate. Radio is an abiding theme of Ward’s, and his songcraft is like good radio, unfolding its gifts in real time.
After the muted beginning, he cranks up, weaving a T. Rex riff into the rave-up “Time Won’t Wait,” and capping the loping, bass-driven “Confession” with a trumpet solo that’s startling, yet suited. Abetted on More Rain by Neko Case, k.d. lang, Peter Buck and Joey Spampinato, among others, Ward references a raft of classic American styles—from doo wop to rockabilly to ghostly folk— without painting by numbers. M. Ward is at the Jefferson on April 30.
Welcome The Worms
L.A.’s Bleached work the classic punky girl-group sound of The Donnas and The Muffs, and the band ripped it up on its 2013 debut, Ride Your Heart. On Welcome The Worms the group charges out of the gate with “Keep On Keepin’ On,” a muscular groove that sounds great at first, but overstays its welcome. Sadly, the whole record ends up sounding like a forced party; besides overlong tunes, producer Carlos De la Garza tries to simulate excitement by pumping the drums up to arena levels—it’s painful. Even the drug references are gratuitous: “Sour Candy” begins with bong hit sound effects before Jen Clavin sings about “picking flowers on LSD.” On one song she’s “getting high every night,” and on another, “getting high on the drug that I call you.” So high that she forgot she already told us about it. Bleached’s melodic gifts are present but drowned out on Welcome The Worms. As Clavin muses on “Wasted On You,” “maybe I’m just trying too hard.”
Manual (Other Music)
Named for a flower indigenous to its native Brazil, Boogarins is a versatile psych band whipping up a heady brew reminiscent of early Tame Impala or Dungen. Manual is Boogarins’ second album. The first, As Plantas Que Cura, was fantastic, evoking Zeppelin, Moody Blues, Mutantes, Nick Drake and Love.
Manual starts with “Truques”—a brief, jazzy instrumental punctuated with space-stun guitar—and segues into the majestic “Avalanche,” of which dankness cannot be denied and which sets the stage for the album. “Tempo” stretches into a proggy jam, with dreamy vocals floating over a lopsided, minimal groove that suggests Radiohead in vacation mode. “6000 Dias (Ou Mantra Dos 20 Anos)” follows with more insanely good space rock, and “San Lorenzo” is a sun-baked instrumental that recalls the crunchier tendencies of Real Estate. All in all, Manual mesmerizes, and in surprising but supremely welcome news, Boogarins plays Richmond’s Hardywood Brewery on April 23.