Review Summary: Full of life and full of love.
This Icelandic six-piece folk band is off to one hell of a start. Before releasing anything officially, they won Musiktilraunir, an annual battle of the bands competition in their home country. During the summer of 2011, their single ‘Little Talks’ began to receive heavy play on Philadelphia radio stations, and before too long its infectious blend of stripped down folk and indie-pop caught fire across the rest of the United States. As word of Of Monsters and Men continues to spread across the world, it is clear that mainstream success will be in the cards sooner rather than later. Many have called them the Mumford & Sons of Iceland, which while the comparison does hold some water, it doesn’t do justice to the sense of novelty that they bring to the table. On My Head Is an Animal
, nothing feels as contrived as the material on the aforementioned group’s Sigh No More
, possessing an ideal mix of accessible tunes and memorable musicianship. If only one thing has become clear on Of Monsters and Men’s debut record, it is that they have the raw talent to do whatever they want to - whether it ends up being popular or not. And that appeal alone makes them worth a glance from fans of alternative music everywhere.
My Head Is an Animal
wastes no time in cutting right to the band’s greatest strength: the dual vocals of Nanna and Ragnar. ‘Dirty Paws’ opens with a beautifully sung harmony between the co-singers before it gradually picks up the pace with full-sounding drum beats, chants of “hey!”, and subtle piano cuts that give the song a sense of unspoken eloquence. It’s really the perfect opening track, because not only is it one of the strongest momets on the record, but it also offers listeners a glimpse of what My Head Is an Animal
entails. The key word there is glimpse
, however, because there is still plenty that unravels over the album’s course that is unexpected. One such instance would be ‘Slow and Steady’, a slow burner consisting of nothing but a gentle duet between Nanna and Ragnar, “climaxing” with restrained drum fills that roll in and out like morning waves on the ocean. The album doesn’t have any off-the-wall style or genre changes over the course of its runtime, but it manages to avoid the type of stagnancy popularized by many indie bands today – the kind that seems to say “we know what the listeners expect of us, and we are going to do exactly that.” What we end up with, resultantly, is something that will please fans of the acclaimed single ‘Little Talks’ without sacrificing Of Monsters and Men’s attempts to branch out and explore their sound in a little more detail.
My Head Is an Animal
, while consistent across the board, does present us with a few gems worthy of additional recognition. Where ‘Little Talks’ sits atop that list, ‘Mountain Sound’ is another track that has “hit” written all over it, sounding as elated as can be between its ridiculously catchy male-to-female vocal tradeoffs and a chorus that could be hummed all day long without getting old. ‘From Finner’ is another standout – not so much because it has mainstream or crossover potential – but because it is quite simply perfectly
executed mid-tempo indie folk. ‘Six Weeks’ is the heaviest song in Of Monsters and Men’s catalogue, with amped-up guitas and intermittent bursts of loudly and urgently sung verses. The most rewarding song on the entire recod, however, may be ‘Lakehouse’ - a track that commences with acoustic strums, soothing vocals performed both separately and together, and an orchestral section that wraps things up in celebratory fashion. It’s a fitting end to such a delicate, picturesque beginning, and the way that it erupts into an impassioned frenzy gives all of My Head Is an Animal
an extra jolt of energy. So whether you like your indie music to be poignant works of folk or entertaining and lively exercises in indie-pop, Of Monsters and Men has something to satisfy your craving.
As taken from a line in ‘Little Talks’, My Head Is an Animal
is “full of life an full of love.” From start to finish, a silver-lining mentality pervades the record. That’s part of its charm – the simple fact that it can be so uniformly happy in a way that isn’t repetitive or annoying and still manages to touch on various aspects of folk, acoustic singer/songwritership, indie, and rock. My Head Is an Animal
’s largest detractor may be that it doesn’t commit to one camp or the other; it isn’t pristine enough for the hippest of hipsters and it isn’t soulless enough for fans of “made for radio” music. But that’s a game that can’t be won anyway, so we might as well enjoy Of Monsters and Men’s debut for what it is: a strong-willed, beautifully composed piece of modern day indie-folk.