Monsters Of Folk, Monsters Of Folk
Three collaborating frontmen settle round the campfire
Jim James, M. Ward and Conor Oberst are no strangers to alienation, and on Monsters of Folk they each concoct a character struggling with that feeling. James's "Magic Marker" tries to reassure a nameless "frozen kid," sitting up at night with pens and notebooks, that it's no crime not to fit in. "Ordinary don't mean nothin' no-how," he soothes, as dobro and Wurlitzer warm up a Neil-Young-circa-Harvest simple strum. In "The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me," Ward takes his typical refuge in the past: the song is a vintage folk allegory about a lone traveler in search of a sweet dream, bemoaning the slow train he's riding. "Guess I'll lay my head against my elbow and the window/Watch the wheels go," he sighs. And in a bitter lament called "Map of the World," Oberst chillingly describes how the right choices can lead to a middle-aged dead end: "You cling to your wife/Your kids and your life/There is nothing that you are going to save."