Release Date: Sept. 22, 2009
Sounds Like: Bright Eyes, Dashboard Confessional
When listeners think of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), they generally do not picture self-reflective optimism. However, with the frontman’s latest project, Monsters of Folk, Oberst unites with long time Bright Eyes bandmate Mike Mogis, Jim James from My Morning Jacket and M. Ward from She & Him, giving back listeners a sense of folk once thought lost.
The self-titled debut album from the super group provides 15 tracks of mind-altering lyrical craftsmanship and multi-culturally influenced orchestration. Though every member of the band sings in his respective band, the singing duties are split four ways between the members, providing a breath of fresh air on each track.
The true genius for the band, though instrumentally complete on many levels, is this mixture of voices throughout the album. On the tracks “The Right Place” and “Magic Marker,” the voices of each of the band members combine to form an almost angelic harmony that sounds as though it might be divinely inspired.
While each member stands out in his own way throughout the album, it is Oberst who shines brightest with his near solo track, “Temazcal.” The track finds Oberst in familiar fashion, with an acoustic guitar, but lyrically crafting his way through an almost scat like fashion unique to his drudging voice.
The way Monsters of Folk operates is on such a different level that listeners might need more than one journey through the album to be able to appreciate the combination of the four musicians. But it is an appreciation that is sure to solidify these four songwriter’s places in indie rock history.
Music reviewer Ian Mahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.