These days, singer-songwriter Matthew Stephen Ward is best known as half of She & Him, a duo that teams him with actress Zoey Deschanel, whose rendition of Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town" in the sparkling (500) Days of Summer guarantees that movie-goers will keep cutting her character slack even as she continues to pummel co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a steady rain of dewy-eyed passive-aggressiveness. However, ward has been making curiously appealing albums for a decade, and Hold Time, his latest, is no exception. "Never Had Nobody Like You" and Buddy Holly's "Rave On," both featuring Deschanel, may be the sunniest tunes on hand, yet Ward's equally effective on "Jail Bird" and the title cut, which merge ornate arrangements, echo-drenched warbling and a sensibility that splits the difference between mid-century nostalgia and new-millennium awkwardness. Although he'll be on his own during his day-three appearance at the 19th Folks Festival in Lyons, Him is more than capable of excelling without She.
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