Monsters of FolkAlbum | Monsters of Folk By Jim Allen
Indie-folk supergroup debuts.
Supergroups have always been a tricky proposition. Sometimes throwing together players from well known bands and hoping they gel can work (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) and sometimes you wind up with something far less than the sum of its parts. (Anyone remember GTR? Didn't think so.) Even with a self-deprecating name like Monsters of Folk to insulate them from over-amplified expectations, any group consisting of My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and uberproducer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, The Faint, etc.) has a lot to live up to.
All things considered, the Monsters come out about even. The tunes don't surpass any of the members' previous individual achievements, but they're certainly well crafted, and there's nothing remotely legacy-tarnishing in the vicinity. Despite the Four Musketeers approach, it's Ward who seems to stand out the most here, as his gently melodic, folk-tinged indie-pop style is the one that feels like a dominant force, especially when he gets into the lo-fi-Jeff Lynne sound he's been pursuing on his last couple of albums. The Monsters of Folk don't topple any skyscrapers, but there are at least as many good songs here as on, say, Oberst's most recent solo album.