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Jim Ward-Quiet Civil Defense League

jim-ward-quiet-cd-artJim Ward – Quiet

Civil Defense League

A refreshingly earnest acoustic EP that feels and sounds quiet.

On average, I listen to an EP four times before I sit down to review it. If I like an EP, I may put it in my listening rotation after I’ve reviewed it, hearing it once a week or so. In contrast, I listened to Quiet by Jim Ward 26 times before I sat down to review it, and I’ve been listening to at least one song off it every time I turn on my iPod. In short, I love this EP dearly and you will too.

Quiet is a perfectly named album, because it consists of five acoustic songs that are not just quiet in volume, but in feel. These songs, written by Jim Ward of Sparta fame, are all built off an underlying feeling of unpresumptuous dignity. These songs were made for the catharsis and enjoyment of the writer, and if you enjoy them too, awesome. But they stand alone without your needing to enjoy them. They don’t pull any crowd participation tricks, they don’t have huge anthemic choruses and they don’t reach for epic heights. These are just songs to be quiet with. They are incredibly humble, and that humility has endeared them to me.

“On My Way Back Home Again” sets the mood of the album: a folksy strum pattern that stays strong and doesn’t wisp out into nothingness, augmented by a piano and a weary harmonica. This isn’t weak, depressed music – it has a spine, but it doesn’t have to punch you in the face to show you.

Jim Ward’s voice is low and comfortable – he rarely goes for the top of his range, staying squarely in the notes that are easy to sing. And why not? It sounds amazing. Each of the performances is its own gem, but I’m especially fond of “On My Way Back Home Again,” because the slow delivery and comfortable yet world-weary tone fits the song perfectly.

“Take it Back” is a little more upbeat thematically and instrumentally, implementing a blocky, choppy strum pattern reminiscent of Page France. The melody in the chorus is one that you will hum after the album is over. Another highlight is closer “Easier Said Than Done,” which uses a fuzzy, buzzing bass as the core of the delicate song. It feels very much like an ocean-side performance, and it is the most calming track on the album. It’s beautiful, relaxing, and most of all, quiet.

This is an EP that I could keep talking about for hundreds more words – there’s just so much to enjoy in this album. If you make playlists of the mellowest stuff off all your favorite albums, this album is for you. It’s simply fantastic.

Stephen Carradini