Touring with Bright Eyes hasn't convinced our man Matt Ward to resort to emotional histrionics or wordy emo balladry. Transistor Radio is a loosely knit concept album that picks up where 2003's Transfiguration Of Vincent left off, with threadbare country-and-blues-tinged acoustic pop anchored by Ward's steel-string technique and froggy vocal purr. The album pays tribute to the artists and radio DJs who hooked Ward on music, and the covers - from instro interpretations of You Still Believe In Me and Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to a swirly hoedown on the Carter Family's Oh Take Me Back - demonstrate his deep affection for the material. But it's Ward's originals, like the doo-wop folk of I'll Be Yr Bird, originally released in 2001, that really connect - spare love songs that combine metaphor detail with hope in place of Transfiguration's sombre elegy.
M Ward warms up the El Mocambo Sunday (February 27).