Monsters of Folk, a super-group to be reckoned with

By Tatiana Craine

The saying goes: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In most cases when high-profile musicians collaborate on side-projects, it’s not true. However, Monsters of Folk transcend the dreaded side-project curse with their first full-length album and creates a unique sound that complements each of the members’ strengths. Monsters of Folk is comprised of four indie folk rock stars: Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes fame, Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Matt Ward of M. Ward and She and Him. Individually, they each have distinctive musical styles that one wouldn’t necessarily think of mixing together. Despite the achievements met on their own, as a group, Monsters of Folk has found great success with their eponymous album. “Monsters of Folk” was released on September 22 under the Shangri-La label.

Though it’s a tired comparison among music critics, the folk rock super group sounds reminiscent of the Travelling Willburys with a bit of the recently popular Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear style harmonies thrown in for good measure. Listening to “Whole Lotta Losin,'” it’s difficult to ignore the intense similarities to the Travelling Wilburys, but the homage is genuine. Notwithstanding the incessant parallels made between Monsters of Folk and other bands, the group manages to be a unique and currently unrivaled musical combination.

Oberst’s gently lilting voice lends a softer sonance to the album, blending well with the other members of the group. The lyrics traded between the musicians, the harmonies and the guitar driven melodies make for a resplendent album full of golden tracks. “Monsters of Folk” is teeming with simple poetic lyrics balanced with heart and soul woven into the harmonies. In the song “Magic Marker,” charming guitar riffs accompany lyrics like, “How many licks does it take to get to the middle where there’s something sweet?”

After causing a frenzy among music critics, bloggers and fans alike, with the release of their long-awaited album, Monsters of Folk are starting a tour across North America and Europe that marks five years of musical partnership. They will play at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on October 29.