Matt Ward has made a career of defying categorization, and this year's Transistor Radio is no exception. At its heart is a love for lo-fi indie pop as well as its progenitors -- third-album-era Velvet Underground, Brian Wilson (whose classic "You Still Believe in Me" gets a baroque instrumental treatment as the album's opener), and others. But there's also plenty of early-twentieth-century Americana, an obvious admiration of folk-pop revivalists and plenty of country-Western influence. Ward is first and foremost a phenomenal acoustic guitar player with a Kottke-esque mastery of the fretboard, but his honest, wide-eyed songwriting and signature gravelly voice add immeasurably to his uniquely entrancing live shows. Ward (above) captures a century's worth of American music like a child with a Mason jar catches a firefly that dances in the soft flickering of its own internal light.
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