The Austin Chronicle Guide to SXSW 2017

Monsters of Folk

Monsters of Folk (Shangri-La)

Phases & Stages

Monsters of Folk

(Shangri-La)

Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst have expanded modern Americana through their distinct progressions over the past decade: James from Southern-swaddled reverb to falsetto soul; Ward from intimate lo-fi rasp to Buddy Holly-ripping pop renaissance; Oberst from cathartic, solipsistic angst to rootsy wanderlust. Add Saddle Creek überproducer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, and Monsters of Folk's debut threatens to fray at the seams of its diffusive talent. Yet while each songwriter's contributions are uniquely signatured in sound on the album, they still meld into an exceptional whole behind complementing harmonies and stylistic blends. James swoons atop simulated strings and syncopated beats on opener "Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)," but Ward's and Oberst's verses transfix with their unexpectedly supple R&B touches. "Temazcal" and "Ahead of the Curve" wheel familiar Oberst narratives, but pushed by Ward's guitar and James' atmospheric shadings; "Goodway" and "The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me" whisper classic Ward, only with backing vocals chiming upbeat. The loose Traveling Wilburys-vibe results in an impressive coherence, and though they inhabit one another's songs expertly, these Monsters' genre-expanding combinations – Gram Parsons-esque "The Right Place," bopping rock of "Losin Yo Head," and George Harrison-echoing "His Master's Voice" – prove equally inspired.

****

READ MORE
More Monsters of Folk
ACL Live Shots
Monsters of Folk

Jim Caligiuri, Oct. 15, 2010

ACL Music Fest Saturday Interview
Monsters of Folk
Austin's Will Johnson sounds off on the Monsters of Folk

Austin Powell, Oct. 8, 2010

More Music Reviews
SXSW Friday Record Reviews
Diet Cig
Swear I'm Good at This (Record Review)

Abby Johnston, March 17, 2017

SXSW Friday Record Reviews
Lvl Up
Return to Love (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, March 17, 2017

More by Doug Freeman
SXSW Music Live: Garth Brooks
SXSW Music Live: Garth Brooks
Stage antics get winded but not his bestselling catalog

March 19, 2017

SXSW Music Live: Conqueroo Day Party
SXSW Music Live: Conqueroo Day Party
ATX hootenanny sends beloved PR maven out with a bang

March 19, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Monsters of Folk

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)