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On the second track of M. Ward’s Post-War, the songwriter — backed by an orchestra of drums, pianos and girl backup singers, and a whole goddamn nu-folk thundercloud — pledges, "I’ll be true to you, oh, yeah. You know I will." In context of the tune it’s a lover’s promise, but given the singer’s career to date, the declaration seems just as much for us. With his intelligent, artful folk-pop, the 31-year-old Ward has become a sure bet, endowed with the lasting reliability that few of his peers — namely younger West Coast folkies like Jolie Holland and Devendra Banhart — enjoy. Buzz is one thing. Talent is another. Much like Ward’s last three collections, Post-War uses Tin Pan Alley changes and warm analogue sounds to explore his brand of darkly shaded love stories, the kinds of songs that dominate undergrad mixtapes. The richer orchestration and lively tempos of Post are hardly radical departures, but he didn’t need any, anyway. The gently swinging title track is one of the record’s finest, Ward’s slack-jawed falsetto reminiscence giving it the quality of a last-call slow dance, while the shuffling "Rollercoaster" is proof that he’s just as stirring when he writes whimsically. Sure, maybe we knew that before — he’s old reliable, after all — but it’s always nice to be reminded.

Nate Cavalieri writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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