Trust the River
Jim Ward always knew that he would go back to writing for his band Sparta, even if he was never sure when that would happen. For Ward, that eureka moment came to him in late 2017 immediately after he wrote “Cat Scream”—a visceral, two-minute scorcher featured on their fourth LP, and their first in 14 years—which he says sounded more appropriate alongside the post-hardcore outfit’s catalog than his solo alt-country project Sleepercar. Here, Ward brings maturity and experience to the songs—a direct result of the stylistic departures he took during the band’s absence. His tuneful songwriting is as sharp as ever on “Believe” and “Empty Houses,” embracing Bruce Springsteen-like signifiers with their soaring choruses and chugging guitars. The terse dynamics and complex rhythms of “Class Blue” fall more in line with the band’s charting rock singles “Taking Back Control” and “Air.” On “Graveyard Luck,” Ward and his cohorts race on full throttle, proof that their effective balance of melody and intensity remains intact.