When I first heard about Monsters of Folk earlier this year I thought to myself, “this sounds like the most epic super-group of all time.” But I also thought, “this sounds like the most epic failure of all time.” It seemed too good to be true. The members include, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes fame, Jim James of My Morning Jacket and finally M. Ward known for his solo work but more recently for his collaboration with Zooey Deschanel called She and Him. By all accounts these guys are well on their way to being, if not already indie rock icons. But can a group handle that many egos pining for the spotlight? As it turns out, it can!
Where most supergroups tend to go wrong Monsters of Folk have done everything right and recorded possible one of the best albums of the year. The collaboration between these artist is flawless and never comes across as one guy trying to be the center of attention. Oberst, Ward and James each split singing and song writing duties, taking turns singing nice harmonies and lead on each other’s songs, while Mogis takes his usual unassuming role as producer and electric guitar master.
I’m a big fan of Conor Oberst so I was particularly fond of his songs on this album. Oberst has put out a lot of material in the past couple of years and I’m always amazed by his consistency writing great songs like the track “Tamezcal” is one of the best on the album.
Jim James is the one contributor I was least familiar with and after listing to this album I realized he is an artist I definitely need be more familar with. He sings in both a falsetto style and in a twangy country-style and every time his voice is heard whether singing lead or background it’s a real treat. James also provides some of the albums most thought-provoking lyrics. He explore themes of God on such tracks as “Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.)” and “His Master’s Voice.”
M. Ward’s signature sound is always a delight and is nicely sprinkled throughout. His song about a weary traveler “The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me” is especially nice.
Though the group is called Monsters of Folk (clearly ment to be tongue-in-check) this isn’t a folk album, although it does have some folk elements. The sound is pretty much what you’d expect from these artists, exploring mostly country, indie rock and classic rock. If you are a fan of any of these styles of music or are a fan of any of these artists I would highly recommend this album. It exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds and is something I think a lot of people could get into.