reviewed by Michael Thomas
Many an album can be described as a journey. Whether that journey is through the artist’s psyche, through genre or through a theme, a complete album experience is always one that feels like you’ve started at one point and ended up at another. And the journey between those two points can be as smooth or as jarring as the artist wants it to be.
David Ward has taken this concept to a different level with The Arrival. It’s an album, albeit one released in three EP’s with three songs each, totaling nine songs. Each EP has its own name to indicate the parts of a journey- first Departures, then Borders and finally Arrivals. Each EP distinguishes itself sonically from its counterparts, and the overall package boils down to one heck of a journey.
First up is Departures. This is the beginning of the journey, but at the same time it is the end of an old one. When someone enters the “departures” section of an aiport they’re leaving some place behind in place of a new one. This can be a bittersweet experience, and it’s one that’s emulated on this first EP.
“The Arrival” starts the EP off with a good dose of strummed guitar and light percussion before going into the main melody. It’s a song that is the unmistakable journey-starter; the melody just sounds like the beginning of something. It leads to “No More Troubles Under the Sun,” the most musically interesting song of of the first three. Despite the carefree-sounding name, the song navigates a fine line between melancholy and happiness. At times it sounds like Amnesiac-era Radiohead if they had used more electric guitar, but other times the sunnier side of Ward peeks through the cracks. Then there’s “Lost in Translation” which has a bit more of an acoustic “singer-songwriter” vibe. That might have been the end of the description, but it ends on a chaotic and fuzzy note that signals that there’s more to come.
There most certainly is. Borders is the next installment on the journey. While the title suggests something in the middle, perhaps even something to fill space, the music is far from middling. The word “border” to me suggests something changing- a person crossing over into a new land, governed by different rules.
“Alice Blue” starts the second EP off with a very unusual style of percussion, making the song quite unique. The “blue” in the title suggests slightly sad content, and Ward certainly delivers that. It sounds like fond memories of a girl, and that can always be a memory that you want to both relive and forget at the same time. “Feel This Way” is a lot more straightforward and actually a song filled with happiness. It’s a simple song of devotion to a lover, and it has one of the album’s best lines: “We can argue ’til we’re blue/Draw a line in the sand but you know/I’d rather be standing on the same side as you.” Finally there’s “Deepest Blue,” another return to melancholy made apparent by the guitar chords that open up the song. Despite its inherent sadness, it’s a very pretty song.
A seismic shift occurs in the final act, Arrivals. Just like with the first set of three songs, an arrival is both the end of a journey and the beginning of another one. For Ward, the arrival is most certainly a happy one. Where previous tracks had a more rock or pop-rock vibe with a bit of soul, the last three songs infuse a great deal of R & B.
“Sweet Girl” is a wave of happiness, simply put. From the beginning “ooh’s” to the groovy bass, this song is pure fun and shows that Ward has got a whole lot of soul. The R & B vibe continues with “Boat People,” though the music changes a little bit to show that the “singer-songwriter” sound hasn’t totally died yet. The last song, simply titled “Joy,” is all about its namesake. It’s opened by a piano as opposed to guitars and has a very celebratory atmosphere. While the previous two installments of The Arrival may have hinted at a gloomy end to the metaphorical journey, Ward throws a curveball and shows that some adventures can have happy endings.
This is an ambitious album for Ward and one that pays off spectacularly. The decision to split the album into three parts does not interrupt the album’s flow; rather, it seamlessly integrates a broad theme into three smaller themes to create a stunning package.
Top Tracks: “No More Troubles Under the Sun”; “Alice Blue”; “Joy”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*