28 September 2009

Monsters of Folk: A Review

I know every new band or song I mention is my "favorite" but right now I'm so impressed with Monsters of Folk, a supergroup collaboration between M. Ward, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes.

I had heard about this grouping for awhile now and indeed it has taken Monsters of Folk over three years (maybe even more) to put out a cohesive album together due to scheduling conflicts between all the members and the lack of a sturdy meeting place until Mogis laid down some roots in Omaha in the shape of a recording studio used to produce most of the tracks on their debut album that came out last week.

Not only do all of these songs have a little something special to them that the individual solo artist's collaborating on them don't always have on their own, there's the fact that these artists were so enthralled with their work that they refused to have any hired hands to play additional instruments on the recordings. Absolutely everything you hear on this record came from these four gentlemen - and that's an accomplishment in itself.

On the band's website, there's a biography-type section that discusses the aspect of "cameos" within the songs. They paid extra attention to making sure the songs didn't sound like a specific member being backed up by the others. While I was perusing this album on iTunes, I actually found myself being drawn first to the tracks that had M. Ward's voice in the 30 second samples because not only is he one of my favorite artists but I felt like those songs had more of the old fashioned "She & Him" style that I so appreciate from his work. Once I downloaded the songs and listened to them in their entiretly I found that the other members of the band - even Conor Oberst, who sounds at his best here and whom I typically detest - contributed so much to even this songs I had pinned as M. Ward penned. They really do a great job at a completely cohesive sound.

There is also this great Traveling Wilburys style to the entire record that makes it not only folksy but a little country and a tad vintage rock and roll. In my mind, I could picture these four performing a concert at a bar in Nashville much more than their upcoming stop at the Beacon Theatre. This is the kind of music that doesn't really need to be accessorized by much. It is sparse, hands in the mud kind of stuff that doesn't get old - it just gets better with time.

So far my favorite track is "Whole Lotta Losin'", one of the first I downloaded out of the 16 tracks that flesh out the complete package. This song is so catchy and down home. I don't know how else to express it. There's certain parts where you could swear Tom Petty was singing in the background. This is no doubt intentional - there's certainly a lot of inspiration coming from people like The Band and Neil Young on all of these songs but unlike some other artists, Monsters of Folk does this old/new thing perfectly, contributing something completely fresh and unique to the genre.

"Baby Boomer" and "The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me" are also really growing on me. They just give a feeling of catchy, fun jams being sung among friends in a little room.

This album makes me want to give Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket another try. Hmm. Maybe just the latter.

For more information and samples make sure to check out MonstersOfFolk.Com.

No comments: