Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk

Music Reviews Monsters of Folk
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Monsters of Folk: <em>Monsters of Folk</em>

Squandering potential rarely sounds so good

There’s no way Monsters of Folk could ever live up to expectations. The group features four of the most influential indie musicians of the decade, whose combined forces may spell apocalypse: M. Ward, Jim James, Conor Oberst, and producer Mike Mogis. Rather than make a staid, serious statement album, the foursome keeps things loose and low-key, content to sound like postmillennial Traveling Wilburys (“Whole Lotta Losin’”) but generally just being themselves. “Temazcal” overlays Oberst’s grave vocals over James’ background whoops and hollers, creating a sound that neither of them could have made without the other. Ward’s virtuosic range allows the Monsters to incorporate country and early-rock elements on “Say Please” and “The Right Place,” and while Mogis may not have the cache of his bandmates, his production keeps things light and rambling. Plus, his guitar solo on “Say Please” is one of the album’s best and most unexpectedly bracing moments.