Not Your Father's Folk Songs

Monsters of Folk (Shangri-La)
Monsters of Folk

By Brian Meurer

I admit that in my head, I expected a supergroup called the Monsters of Folk to sound a certain way. Folk is one of those lesser used words that evoke certain preconceived notions, and in my case, that is apparently of the 1960's Joan Baez/Simon & Garfunkel/ Pete Seeger/Joni Mitchell/ Crosby Stills & Nash variety.

It was in this mindset that I approached the release from My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, and singer-songwriter M. Ward and possibly why I found it so refreshing. It is definitely a collaborative work, as diverse as its members, loose enough to be fun, dense enough to require multiple listens.

All four contribute in different roles on the songs, drawing enough of a common thread through the genre-bending album to feel right. Interesting and melodic pop harmonies abound here, running through the fringes of roots, Americana, bluegrass, and lo-fi country drum loop rock. If anything, at fifteen songs, it might have used a bit of trimming, or at least benefited from a vinyl experience.

Half of the album is of the lower-intensity mellow variety, and while it fits and works in this context, it's the handful of Jim James-led tunes that stand out and stick with you, reminding you to come back.

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