Home Read Albums Of The Week: Jim Ward | Daggers

Albums Of The Week: Jim Ward | Daggers

The ATDI & Sparta founder strikes out on his own with a stirring solo release.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Jim Ward has played in a slew of monumental bands, from the iconic post-hardcore band At The Drive-In to Sparta, as well his alt-country project Sleepercar. “I’ve always used music as an outlet for anxiety and frustration,” notes Ward, and in fact, it’s this healing power of music, Ward offers, that led him to Daggers. “When my world has upheaval, it becomes about doing the work in front of me.”

“I tend to exist in the darker parts of the psyche,” Ward admits. “That’s where I’ve always been.” And yet what makes the musician so unique and downright compelling is that when the world decides to join him in this darkness — the ultra-challenging year that was 2020 — it’s then Ward is able to claw his way back into the light. Every night during the pandemic, armed with a guitar as well as a bit of time and purpose, this prolific musician was able to churn out several riotous riffs that ultimately transformed into one of his most personal and profound albums to date. It was also a cathartic form of healing: All the pent-up frustration and anger and longing and desperation that Ward, like so many of us, felt last year, came bursting forth via the new batch of songs.

While Daggers is officially credited as a solo work, and Ward never entered the room with any of his collaborators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s effusive in his praise for them: Notably the twin team of Incubus bassist Ben Kenney and Thursday drummer Tucker Rule, both of whom took Ward’s guitar riffs and helped propel them into fully fleshed-out songs. “My friends did this for the pure love of making music with a friend,” he says of Kenney and Rule. “There’s no higher compliment. I don’t know how I’ll repay them.”

“All I ever wanted … was to die a better man than I was at the start,” he sings on the loping, effortlessly melodic Paper Fish, and “that’s my whole concept of life right there,” Ward notes proudly. “That I’m making improvement. I can’t go back and say, ‘Oh I wish I didn’t do that’ or ‘I regret that happened’ or ‘I wish this band had stayed together.’ All of those things to me are part of the journey. I just wanna die the best man I can be.”

To that end, Ward calls Daggers his most hopeful record to date. “Reality is OK,” he says. “You can’t change the past, but you can take those lessons and you can do better … I’ve always considered songwriting as a journey. It can guide me in the way I’m going forward.”