2009: The Round Up

#13. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
(Rough Trade, 2009)

Lucky number 13. The merry gentlemen in Monsters of Folk, M.Ward, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Yim Yames aka Jim James, got the lucky thirteen spot in my 2009 round up. The quartet's debut album is a good debut but almost never better than these artists are on their own. At least until you really get this album under your skin. Because the members of this group are known from other bands and releases you really get your hopes up. That this album is going to be some life changing masterpiece. That it isn't, but it is more than decent.

First single and second song on the album, "Say Please", sets the standard and tells us what we can expect from this group. For me they are kind of a 2000's indie-scene version of the late great Travellin' Willbury's. Some other reviewers have mentioned CSNY but I feel the Willbury's are a more accurate band to mention. Both "Say Please" and the following "Whole Lotta Losin'" are examples of this. The vocalists, Oberst, Ward and James trade of verses and back each other on the choruses. Another thing that seems to be like the Willbury's is the fact that you can hear that these guys had a really good time recording this.

The standout tracks on this album comes from Jim James and Conor Oberst in my opinion. Especially James seems on a roll these days with a lot of songs in different genres that all hold a really high standard. His best on this album are the kind of down-home porch sing-a-longs "The Right Place" and "Magic Marker" and the rocking "Losin' Yo Head". The latter is the only song on the album where the band really lets off some steam and really just rock out.

My favourite Oberst songs on the album are also my favourites on the album as a whole. "Map of the World" is Oberst at his best with great lyrics and an outstanding performance. My other favourite are "Ahead of the Curve" which is a song that has some of the same feel as his 2005 Bright Eyes album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning. The song also has one of the best lines on the album.

"..I had shoes to fill
Walking barefoot now.."

I think that line says a lot about where he is in life, at least musically. He's just taking his time and doing things the way he sees fit.