Friday, October 16, 2009

Revinylization Project: Port O'Brien and The Monsters of Folk

Man, I haven't done one of these posts in a long time. Don't get me wrong, I still acquire and listen to new records, but it's been a while. Let's see if it's like falling off a horse.

Port O'Brien - Threadbare

Music
Some one's been listening to too much 1970's AM radio. The mood on this record is way less urgent, way more laid back than 2007's All We Could Do Was Sing. It may take a bit for this one to grow on me. There are no songs that grab you right away, but the production is somewhat improved. We'll see. What I do know at this point is that Cambria Goodwin is all over this record and that's a good thing.

Insert
It's a simple lyric sheet, black on white. However, it's the reverse side's minimal liner notes that may provide the most insight into the album's aesthetic. "In Loving Memory" is inscribed with the name Darac Dean Goodwin who tragically died at 17 earlier this year. A quick Google search reveals that Goodwin died in a car accident near rural Cambria, CA. The connection is undeniable as it is easily some relation to Port O'Brien's own female vocalist/songwriter Cambria Goodwin. This piece of information really sets the tone for a sad, sad record. Sorry for your loss, Cambria.

Sleeve
A blurry, faded photo of lavender fields adds to the albums soft, sad aesthetic.

Extras
The CD was included in the packaging. I'm wondering if this is easier/more cost-effective than the whole MP3 download deal. I dunno. I just know that I was able to pop it in the car's player right away without having to load it on the iPod. Also, there was a 7" with "My Will Is Good" and B-side "Lost in a Crowd". The single was an exclusive Insound pre-order extra, I believe.

Record
The vinyl is high-quality. I don't recall if the packaging's sticker proclaimed it to be 180-gram, but it certainly seems that way.

whY?
Although I was expecting a repeat of All We Could Do Was Sing, this album is a nice change of pace, a companion to the group's 2007 effort. It will be interesting to watch Port O'Brien's development from here.

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

Music
Conor Oberst, Yim Yames (AKA Jim James), M. Ward, and Mike Mogis come together to create 2009's most creative joint venture. Though the image and feel of this super group screams 1970's CSNY or [enter 70's roots rock band here], the music is certainly more soulful and varied than anything ever played on AM radio. With at least two solid songwriters, two unmistakable voices, and two virtuoso producers on the roster (I'll let you guess which is which), the expectations had to be high for this group. Well, consider expectations delivered upon as this is maybe the most complete-yet-unfocused record of '09. Although I consider it a grower, the variation of songwriting and performances on Monsters of Folk grabbed me right away. Even Lucia was impressed, but she likes anything that remotely fits under the alt.country category. Kids.

Insert
Everything about this album's aesthetic reminds me of my parent's record collection. The insert is this huge version of a CD booklet with the album's psychedelic black and white artwork adorning the borders and each song's lyrics given its own page. This is the kind of insert one pours over for hours while playing records.

Sleeve
I love the audacity of
marginally mainstream indie rockers who put out albums with their portraits on the cover as if the average music fan will stop, do a double-take, and comment, "Hey, isn't that Mike Mogis?" Leafy vines frame each band member's artfully sketched visage, fully displaying the perceived non-hierarchical nature of the super group. A cool sketch of the group arm-in-arm covers the backside.

Extras
There is the prerequisite MP3 download card, plus the aforementioned monstrous insert and two discs. I don't know that these are all extras, but it sure feels like extra stuff to me.

Record
As advertised, two discs of 180-gram goodness fell from the sleeve upon shredding the shrink wrap. This is the type of record that should be listened to on vinyl as the warmth of the guys' friendship (perceived or real) and the fun they had recording (also perceived or real) clearly comes through as you drop the needle to the record.

whY?

Because you should always buy a super-group's record. It's either going to be a train-wreck of ego masturbation or a fun jam session put to tape. This one definitely fits the latter. Besides, if you read this blog for the music, you undoubtedly like either Bright Eyes, The Mystic Valley Band, My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, She and Him, or some combination of these bands. With this record, you get all of the above (sans Zooey Deschanel).

3 comments:

tina elizabeth said...

I love that you bought the albums... so classic. Two lovely reviews! If that's what falling off a horse is like, you nailed it.

comoprozac said...

I've tried to buy vinyl exclusively all year. Aside from accidentally ordering a CD and buying an album only available on CD, I've done rather well.

Katie said...

So I'm thinking the Monsters of Folk is somewhat similar to what I saw in Pittsburgh several years ago when I saw Mr. Oberst, M. Ward and Jimmy James playing, switching instruments/songs, etc. They're playing a Halloween show in Louisville and if you wear a costume to the show, you get to dance on stage with the band at some point. Damn student money-earning lifestyle I've adopted! I'm sure the bunny costume would gotten me on the stage.