Soundtrack

M. Ward DJs a Party Full of People Whose Names He Can’t Recall

The musician serves up a rock 'n' roll playlist and will accept whatever tips you have for better ways to memorize people's names.

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Image Courtesy of Press Here Publicity

Portland-based M. Ward, along with Zooey Deschanel, is part of the nostalgia-pop duo She & Him. But Ward has been releasing acclaimed solo albums full of smart indie folk since the late ’90s. His latest, called “More Rain,” came out this week. He spins soundtrack filled with great guitar licks for a dinner party hosted in his friend Scott’s backyard.

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M. Ward: Hello, everybody. My name is M. Ward. And here is my dinner party soundtrack.

NRBQ – “Me And The Boys”

Song number one is a song by a band called NRBQ, one of my all-time favorite bands. And the song I would choose is “Me And The Boys.”

The way that I got hooked on NRBQ was through Ira from Yo La Tengo. Yo La Tengo does an annual benefit in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Ira had one of their songs on the list for songs to cover that night. And once you start hearing some of their songs, and you start getting into their records, it’s a rabbit hole that you never get out of. [Ed. Note: Yo La Tengo put NRBQ on their party playlist too.]

It’s just a great rock ‘n’ roll song: the tempo, the sound of the guitars. It seems like a good song to start off the dinner party because it wakes you up.

People are arriving, hanging up their coats, learning people’s names, learning the dog’s name. If anyone has tips, you know, on better ways to memorize people’s names, I will accept them.

Judee Sill – “Lady-O”

There’s a singer whose music I discovered a couple years ago named Judee Sill. As far as I know, she only made two records in the early ’70s. She had some kind of a drug problem and she passed away very young. But I highly recommend both of her records. And I’m going to put on my dinner party soundtrack, “Lady-O” from Judee Sill.

Judee Sill’s voice, to me, sounds like a cross between Joni Mitchell and a man. In general, she stays at a pretty low register, but the way she sings the chorus, it sort of just floats into the room. And her approach is never heavy-handed and perfect for the song.

Everyone has probably forgotten each other’s names at this point, and maybe there’s something continuously cooking on the stove. Scott McPherson, who’s one of my favorite drummers and friends in the world, maybe we can have the party at his house. He’s got a great little backyard.

Elvis – “Baby, What You Want Me to Do”

So, I recently discovered a guitar player named James Burton, who is probably in his 70s or 80s now, but he played a lot with Elvis Presley. And the song I would choose is “Baby What You Want Me to Do,” and listen closely to this guitar playing.

I know he’s a big name in guitar circles. You know a guitar player’s good when Elvis Presley, who owned the world, stops singing and at one point, just says, you know, “Take it away, James!” And instead of some blistering solo with 1,000 notes, he comes out and just does two notes. There’s a lot of power in that.

M. Ward – “Girl From Conejo Valley”

So, I would never in a million years play one of my own songs at a dinner party, but the song that I’m currently most excited about is “Girl From Conejo Valley.”

Conejo Valley is a suburb of Los Angeles. It’s a very quiet, serene place to grow up. And I did have a couple friends in Conejo Valley who rode motorcycles. And there is a character in the song who’s a motorcycle guy, and we gave him a hard time because we never really knew what his name really was.

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