Of Monsters and Men is an Icelandic collective with a hushed indie-folk tone, not to be confused with 'Of Mice and Men', the Californian 'metalcore' act, though the animals in the names would fit better to their genres if they were swapped around so there'd be timid mice for the folk act and heavyweight monsters for the metal act. But there's irony for you.
Since winning 'Músíktilraunir', a five-day mass-scale battle of the bands in their home country, they've been on a swift journey. A route that's seen them sign to universal and 'My Head Is An Animal' going into the U.S Billboard chart at number six, beating the record for an Icelandic artist, previously held by Bjork. Pretty impressive really, considering female vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir formed the band to add to her own solo project. She probably realised that a band would be incredibly more exciting for everyone. She shares her delicate vocals with Ragnar þórhallsson and hamonises brilliantly throughout the cutely named 'Dirty Paws' and 'Sloom' especially. Think Ellie Goulding teamed with a less gruff Marcus Mumford. They are obviously embracing their quickly located success. The six-piece have been touring a lot recently but, as track 'From Finner' merrily states, 'we are far from home, all alone, but we're so happy.'
'My Head Is An Animal' does feel very animalistic. But not in a primitive and angry sense; more as a natural fantasy of the outdoors and the life it withholds. At the album's launch event, Nanna fondly admitted, "Iceland can be a very isolated country and that translates to the music." This is correct. The songs derail off in to their own fascinating little adventures, whether it be 'fishing for a friend' in 'Numb Bears' or fighting animals in 'Six Weeks'. The tenderly strummed guitars in 'King and Lionheart' and tribal drums and echoed voices in 'Lakehouse' and 'Slow and Steady' create a group of rousing folk sounds. There's also the more upbeat selection where brass sections and lively drums drive for a powerful, uplifting purpose. 'Mountain Sound' is particularly strong against the other 11 tracks, with youthful words of sleeping until the sun goes down and a clap long section, perfect for all those live shows the band are going to be doing. New single, 'Little Talks', has some 'hey' chants. The creaky effects and bustling instruments give it a traditional skiffle tone.
At nearly 54 minutes, this seems too long for a basic debut that you can listen to day in, day out. If you're going spend an evening or two, even three in the open air, taking in the fresh breeze along with a load of campfire debris, then 'My Head Is An Animal' might be just be perfect.
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