Thursday, October 15, 2009

"the Monsters of Folk"-


I'm sure you've already heard all about how this is the "Traveling Willbury's" of our age, so I'm not going to go on about how this is four brilliantly talented musicians who have their respective (and respected) projects.

First off, I'd like to say that the album cover gives good insight to the sound and feel of the album; rustic, folky, earthen (at times), and epic (at others). From the trip hop swagger of the opening track, the acoustic ballads, the spot on production, the spot off (when necessary) production, this album is many great things. I think it's also necessary to note that Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) is the weakest member; however, this does not mean that his contributions are weak, it just means that Jim James and M. Ward are that amazing.


"Dear God" is mysterious, sly, trip hop-esque, but clearly thoughtful hence the title. Just by reading the song titles, you can get a grasp of the themes of the album. These are God, war, Central America, the Wild West, and love. "Say Please" reveals the first slice of M. Ward, and boy is it good. This track is Crosby, Stills, and Nash vocally, but the Beatles musically. Although not a vocal frontrunner, Mike Mogis acts as producer for most of it, and his touch is evident in every song. "Whole Lotta Losin'" adds Americana and heartbreak to the mix of theme-ridden tunes. What I love about this song is how the first verse gives that American feel, but when the synth shows up in the 2nd verse, it gives a rushing, poppy sound that I feel is a great addition. This little mix up shows their stylistic versatility. Oh, and M.Ward dropped the Portland reference. "Temazcal" is the first time for Oberst to shine, and the first truly outstanding track. Folky, mysterious, and complete with Oberst's rusty vocal chords, the chorus harmonies are pristine, and give me the first reason to call this one of the best of 2009. "The Right Place" is worthy of being dubbed a "Workingman's Dead" outtake. Jim James is just as much Jerry Garcia as he is Robin Pecknold.

Conor Oberst is present in both the weakest ("Man Named Truth") and strongest ("Temazcal") points. Jim James seems to chime in at the perfect times for that pumping jam ("Losin' Yo Head") and the soft soothing folk songs ("Slow Down Jo"), and M. Ward seems to act as the father figure, as it feels like everytime he opens his mouth, he has the listener's attention. What I love about M.O.F. as opposed to most super groups is that each member brings their own experience and their own bag of tricks and adds it to the cauldron of indie rock in the center. There is no M. Ward song or Jim James song, they are all M.O.F. songs. Very cohesive. "Ahead of the Curve" keeps the group young, but shows their lyrical strength. "Losin' Yo Head" is by the far the most fast pace, loud jam on the album, and I think one of the strongest. For whatever reason it makes me imagine the group playing/practicing in a big mansion with a bunch of ghosts digging it. The last 3 songs on the album wind things down perfectly. I feel like "His Master's Voice" is a really meaningful song to have close the album. It includes many of the themes of the album, has a little bit of epic in it, a little bit of folk, and a little bit of everything great about the album.

This album is immediately great. It's not the kind that takes a couple listens to appreciate. The things they're singing about, the sounds they're creating, aren't anything too complex to grasp, and I feel like there is a great homey feeling to this album, probably because I love Indie so much. But this album doesn't need a genre label; it shines, it's great, and nothing else matters.

Key tracks: "Temazcal", "Say Please", "Losin' Yo Head"
Listen if you like: My Morning Jacket, Blitzen Trapper, CSNY

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