We have been lax. We realize this and we apologize. As a rosy-cheeked newbie blogger we still haven’t gotten the hang of plowing through punishing deadlines while also dishing out interesting blog posts.

Consider us officially back in the saddle…But we digress:

Our list of man-crushes runs something like this: Ali, McQueen, Tweedy, and Bob Riede.

But let it be known that Portland’s very own M. Ward is slowly creeping up the list. While a lot of artists playing the music game do jumping jacks and jazz hands and light themselves on fire to catch the attention of the mainstream, Ward has followed his own path…a path that suddenly has a lot of company.

His "secret" show Saturday night at Doug Fir wasn’t much of a secret judging by the jam-packed room. Which shouldn’t be a surprise. Over ten years and seven increasingly impressive albums Ward has gone from sad-eyed bedroom troubadour to a confident, chug-a-lug rock star that tops festival bills and is the de facto go-to guest star for the likes of Zooey Deschanel, My Morning Jacket, and Bright Eyes.

Saturday, billed as the Feb Fourteen Band, Ward used the fake moniker to stick to the heartfelt, jaunty, roguish end of his script, while dipping the occasional toe into his excellent new album, "Hold Time." Even when he busted out a song I didn’t know, it still felt instantly familiar. I blame his voice. As I commented to a friend, Ward doesn’t have a great voice, as in it’s not big and belty and able to hit quivering falsettos, but he has the kind of voice that you can’t forget. It’s comforting. And unique and a story unto itself. To me, that’s more important. When trying to explain it I have the image of somebody burning cigarette holes into leather…or pleather…or velvet?

We’d like to remind you that "buying local" isn’t just for meat and vegetables. It goes double for rock. "Hold Time" is out Tuesday on Merge. For more on M. Ward check out: latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2009/02/m-ward-pursuing.html