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Album: M Ward, A Wasteland Companion (Bella Union)

This Oregonian 38-year-old, perhaps best known as the "Him" to Zooey Deschanel's "She" (who guests here), hasn't reinvented any wheels with his seventh album.

AWC is all squeaky fingers on fretboards, sexy reverb timbres on vocals, and collaborations with the likes of PJ Harvey sidekick John Parish and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley. Ward's at his best, though, when he ditches the troubadour formula, as on the glam-pop romp he takes through Daniel Johnston's "Sweetheart".