Monsters of Folk is an indie supergroup comprised of Jim James (credited as Yim Yames) from My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, and M. Ward. Although I appreciate their talents and on separate occasions have seen James, Oberst, and Ward in concert, I don’t consider myself a fan in comparison to many who were likely drawn to this collaboration.
Alternating lead vocals and harmonizing well together, “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” is an old school R&B number where they ask a fair question to the Almighty. “If your love’s still around…why do we suffer?” They play over programmed drums, which contrasts with a celestial-sounding harp. The song contains a sample of Trevor Dandy’s “Is There Any Love” and is a very odd choice to open the album as it belies what’s to follow. Should have been a B-side.
Oberst takes the lead vocal on “Say Please,” an uplifting tale about offering a hand to help someone down. Mogis delivers a wonderful, though slightly distorted, solo on the bridge and Yames plays drums. Has a mid-‘60s vibe before the drugs took hold. “Whole Lotta Losin’” with its upbeat pop-rock vibe, western guitar twang, and melodious group vocals, brings to mind another supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys.
The arrangement on “Temazcal” sounds eerily familiar but I can’t place it. There’s a laid -back, Baja California vibe as Oberst sings a haunting tale of things that “are they’re there and they’re gone.” There’s lot of good poetry in the lyrics, a common trait on the songs he sings lead on.
I love the entire country twang of “The Right Place.” Yames' vocal, Oberst’s piano, and Mogis’ steel guitar nail it as the lyrics ask questions of whether “you are in the right place.” “Man Named Truth” is another song filled with Oberst’s poetic way with words and Mogis leads the up-tempo pace his with mandolin. It’s perfect for driving across flat, open stretches of road.