Ward: Album Review

Album – Bring Me Low

Ward are a Los Angeles based ‘arena-wave’ band formed in 2016. Their music is described as bringing back the 80s sound of new-wave and post-pop. The bands three 2018 singles, Crush, Soothe the Soul and Stand Me, were released to much acclaim, racking up a whopping 100,000 streams in their first six months. The band have since released their debut album, Bring Me Low, last year, and have very kindly asked me to check it out and review it, so I shall be doing exactly that today!

Getting Further From the Edge fades in on an interesting little guitar riff that actually sounded a lot more rock than I was expecting and reminded me of a certain wrestlers theme song who shall remain nameless. The second guitar coming in behind it lightened things up a little, though giving it a lot more of an indie feel to it. The drums build in and it soon ends up heading into an awesome riff as the band fill out the sound for the verse. Christopher Grant Ward’s vocals fit in perfectly over the top, definitely giving off heavy 80s pop styles. There’s a lot of Billy Idol and U2 influence here, for sure. In true 80s new-wave fashion there is very little difference in the parts either, the instrumentation is the same throughout the verses and choruses, making it a little hard at times to differentiate between the two. There was, however, a nice little guitar solo part in the middle, followed by the song dropping down a little afterwards into drums and vocals for a moment. The real highlight for me in this song is the awesome bassline driving throughout the song. It’s so simple but massively catchy and sounds great in the few moments it gets to shine through. A great song to start the album on and one that made the playlist pretty easily!

All the Things I want opens on an awesome synth riff, Christopher’s low, indie style vocals soon coming in over the top and sounding great. There is a good build-up on the guitars too heading into the chorus. This one is a little more defined than the first song’s one, and as a result feels a little more catchy and easier to remember. The vocal melody is great and while this does have some indie feel to it still, it also gave me some vague Red Hot Chili Peppers vibes; the instrumentation feeling like Save the Population in the chorus. We get an awesome bridge after the second chorus, one where the drummer goes ham for the second half of it, really getting to show off his skill. Afterwards we get a catchy little build-up part with some great vocals that would be easy to sing along to live; always a good sign. We then get a final chorus before a short outro takes us home. This felt a lot more modern indie than 80s new-wave, but that definitely doesn’t mean it wasn’t another great song!

Next up is the title track of the album, Bring Me Low. It opens slow, a basic drumbeat and some simple guitars and synths. It’s a great, calming atmosphere. Again, Christopher’s vocals come in low and a little indie-like. The chorus soon comes in and, while it still keeps its slow pace, it is maybe my favourite chorus on the album so far. It is simple but the lyrics and delivery are so emotional and heartfelt that it really left an impression on me. I’m not usually into the slower side of 80s pop, but all of this is fantastic, and if anyone is a fan of the genre at all this is a must to check out. Whatever I write isn’t going to do it enough justice, so I’ll just say it was great and made it onto the playlist and leave it at that.

Swimming opens sounding like a long-lost Billy Idol or The Cure song. The instrumentation here is fantastic and the vocals immediately made me feel like I was back in the 80s.  The chorus is basic and repeats the same lines for half of it, but it only adds to the catchiness this time around. Again though, I find myself drawn to the bass, especially during the pre-chorus, it has definitely been the highlight of the band for me so far (and not just because I’m a bassist myself, I swear!). the bridge between the second and last choruses was fun too, as was the outro; another great song!

Leave It On opens on an almost Ramones-y, punky guitar riff, the vocals pretty much reinforcing that as they are delivered with a lot more attitude and energy, harkening back to a lot of 70s punk. The short bursts of backing vocals were a nice addition here, adding some great dynamics to the choruses. Again, the bass has a fantastic riff throughout that I cannot not point out because it is so good, reminding me a lot of Flea’s playing back in the day. We get a slight dropout after the second chorus before the guitar comes in with a great, slightly distorted riff, finally able to show off a little. The vocals come in over the top again pretty soon, building up into the great final chorus and the epic outro. All of this was fantastic and another song that easily made the playlist!

Stand Me, the only one that had been released before the album from what I could gather, has been re-recorded for the album, being branded the Culver Studio Version. It starts off slow, gradually building up with some synth and quiet cymbals before the vocals come in. Said vocals stay low, almost giving off Lou Reed vibes to me. It slowly builds up more and more, the vocals getting higher as some basic guitar notes come in and some backing vocals/harmonies add even more beautiful depth to it. It all builds up to the beautiful, slow chorus, the lyrics being really fantastic here and full of emotion. The whole song revolves around them but for good reason, it is one of the best self-doubting songs I have heard, honestly. I can see why this was released to such a great reception; it is a really great song.   

Dirt picks up the pace a little again, opening on a great little drumbeat before some jazzy bass awesomely messy guitar comes in. For some reason it reminded me a little of No Excuses by Alice in Chains, even though they aren’t even the same sort of genre. The vocals bring it back round to the new-wave sound again, though. The transition between the verse and chorus really threw me off with this one; I only knew it was the chorus after hearing the song title being sung. It may just be me though, due to the fact that I don’t listen to this genre anywhere near as much as I should, and each part still sounds great. I especially loved the second pre (I think it was) where all the instrumentation drops down quiet and you can just hear faint drums, the great bassline and Christopher’s powerful vocals, building up more and more into a final chorus. The outro was another fantastic one too, being the heaviest part of the song and almost giving off The Doors kind of vibes. A great, more slow burn type of song.

And now we reach the final song, Whatever Takes you Home. It opens on an almost country guitar chord progression, taking me by surprise. Said progression carries on throughout most of the song, the vocals being the main thing that changes between the parts again. Said vocals are again great again, though, especially during the massively catchy, very well written chorus. The double-timed drum part at the end of the second chorus was fantastic too, really hammering home the emotion with the vocals over the top as well. Again, this had some heavy Ramones feeling to it over straight up new-wave. It eventually reaches its peak and slowly gets stripped back more and more into a final quiet, calm chorus. What a fantastic way to finish a song, and honestly this may be the best album closer I’ve heard in a good long while. Great stuff!

Overall: this was great. As I’ve said, I don’t listen to this genre anywhere near regularly, but I got a hell of a lot of enjoyment out of this and would happily listen to it all again a good few times over. All of them are great at what they do and are clearly very, very good songwriters to produce this type of quality. Hopefully they came come over to the UK some time so I can see them play; I feel like it would somehow be even better live!

Overall: 7.5/10

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