Monsters of Folk were spawned in post-show jams between Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket and M. Ward in 2004. Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Matt Ward started working on material then, but it's taken them five years to translate the structured backstage jams into a studio experience. They assembled early last year with bare ideas for songs and plans to lay down demos, hammered the material into shape and emerged with their self-titled debut nearly completed.
They may be Monsters of Folk, but they've clearly colored outside genre lines. "Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)" features a Marvin Gaye-meets-Moby ambient-soul texture. It's followed by the Jeff Lynne-flavored "Say Please," the Wilbury/Beatlesque pop/rock of "Whole Lotta Losin'," the Everly Brothers twang-pop of "Magic Marker" and the reverb shimmer of "Temazcal." The Monsters don't skimp on the folk, though — from the George Harrison country romp "The Right Place" to the Wilco-at-a-bluegrass-festival protest song "Man Named Truth" and the ambient gospel of "Goodway." Considering the band's spontaneously collaborative approach to writing, the album is understandably diverse and unexpectedly cohesive. — Brian Baker
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