Friday, September 25, 2009

Monsters Of Folk

Oh the dreaded supergroup. How many of the sums did not live up to the promise of the parts? It is often the case that what seems like a good idea on paper, just doesn’t come together in practice. These Monsters Of Folk put the lie to that notion and dish up one of the tastiest albums of the year. Each of the principles: Jim James Of My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and M.Ward brings what makes them unique as individual performers to the party but at the same time the songs all sound like collaborations. Opening with Jim James’ falsetto, the band doesn’t sound like a group of guys backing each other, they really sound like they all participated and gave it their all. The real sign of success to me is that after a song or two, I stopped trying to figure out who did what or wrote which, it was just a pleasure to listen to such a beautifully crafted album. And craft is exactly what it is. The sound of songs like "Whole Lot Of Losin'" (M.Ward vocal) or "The Right Place" (Jim with a country twang in his voice) "Losin' To Head" (Jim with a straight ahead vocal this time) or Conor Obersts' magnificent "Map Of The World" is most reminiscent of the more pastoral inclinations of the Beach Boys or The Beatles.
Stylistically, they live up to the billing and, for the most part keep things pretty acoustic. Of course with the sonic genius of Mike Mogis on board there are sweeps and swoops and squeals here and there. The album closer shows them all off perfectly. It is beautiful and melodic with Jim's voice in his perfect range, and everyone fully engaged in making it soar with musical invention. This really is an exhilarating record.
Paul Epstein

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