Monsters of Folk, a collaboration between Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket and M. Ward, should end up having a unique place in supergroup history. The group didn't launch the members' careers like many indie collectives have and it didn't come into being after they had achieved fame.
Monsters of Folk came together during a 2004 tour before much of the indie world had taken notice of them. However, before the group could record an album together, their careers skyrocketed. Bright Eyes took off with I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, My Morning Jacket with Z and M. Ward with Post - War. Five years later, the group decided it was finally time to get in the studio.
Monsters of Folk's self-titled debut suffers from some common issues with supergroup records. It feels disjointed, unorganized at points and it goes on a bit too long. As a whole, this album is boiling over with musical ideas. The songs play much better individually and, outside the context of the record, sound remarkably restrained for a group with so much talent. No one member is dominant on the album, but Oberst's voice is distinctive enough to take you out of the moment.
Monsters of Folk really excel when they slow down the tempo and pull back the volume like on “The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me.” There is a fantastic dreamy quality to some of these tracks that allows them to float by your ear—unnoticed at first—and linger in the air. The silence left behind when “His Master's Voice” ends is astounding.
Monsters of Folk's self-titled debut is out on Shangri-La Records today.