Of Monsters and Men
Fever Dream


4.2
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
July 26th, 2019 | 69 replies


Release Date: 07/26/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You think you know me, but do you really?

It’s fair to assume by this point that most people know what the Icelandic six-piece Of Monsters and Men are all about. They make tremendously catchy indie-pop with some of the best vocal harmonies in the entire genre, and you’ve heard ‘Little Talks’ about a thousand times whether you like the song or not. Their success has caused them to, perhaps a bit unfairly, become lumped into the same category as other indie-pop bands that rose to prominence around the same time (The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, etc.). Aside from the fact that Of Monsters and Men are expressly more talented, they’ve also displayed creative chops that few of their airtime-sharing amigos could muster. Few people discuss Beneath the Skin – their more subdued and forward-thinking sophomore effort – because it lacks a ‘Little Talks’, despite the fact that the album is better in just about every way imaginable. Now, with Fever Dream, I’m convinced that this sort of trajectory was their goal all along. The band made its money, and now they have true freedom to create. So I’m forced to re-examine them as a whole, and ask…do we really know who they are?

Fever Dream is yet another departure from what we perceive to be their norm. My Head Is An Animal was their indie-folk opus, overflowing with saccharine melodies, whistles, handclaps, and all things memorable. Beneath the Skin did just what the title implies and reflected inward for a more meaningful experience. In 2019, Of Monsters and Men seem to be more interested in gleaming synths and unpredictable song structures – a bold step away from their comfortable indie niche and straight into the pop arena. Despite the rampant connotations that are likely conjured by that statement alone, this is not an attempt to sell out. As I said, they already reached their commercial peak. Fever Dream is more like an exploratory dive into the freedom that comes with ditching drums and acoustic guitars for infinite possibility. It’s a vision that we can hear beginning to come to life on the plaintive ballad ‘Waiting for the Snow’, where vocoder-tinged verses float atop elegant piano lines that are echoed by a cold, detached electronic heartbeat. It’s a yearning that consistently bubbles beneath the surface, releasing energy in spurts as it does on the lush, gorgeous flow of ‘Sleepwalker’ or the all-out pop track that is ‘Róróró’ – a mesmerizing vocal display from the once-complementary-now-in-charge Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir. Despite all of Fever Dream’s pop-leaning ambition, it’s still an experience that longs for the quiet, contemplative human experiences. The band may be careening a plethora of soundscapes here, but its heart remains in the same place: campfires, romance, and star-lit skies. This is the most transparent during ‘Under a Dome’, where Ragnar Þórhallsson reassumes lead vocals for a slow-building penultimate track that culminates in a raw emotional outro, “So fuck all the times that I've fallen (And I'm falling) / Creature, you're part of this loving game.”

Eight years ago, I never would have pegged Of Monsters and Men as the kind of band that would create an album like this. When I heard the propulsive folk-pop of the lead single, ‘Alligator’, I assumed we were in for a return to the days of My Head Is An Animal – and that their sophomore gem would go down in the books as little more than an interesting detour in an otherwise predictable career. Kudos to them for fooling me – and more likely all of us – with that red herring of a single, and for doubling down on their commitment to themselves. When Þórhallsson taunts, “you think you know me, but do you really?” on the record’s second track ‘Ahay’, it feels like a revelation. This probably isn’t the perfect analogy, but their career trajectory thus far reminds me very much of MGMT’s: a wildly successful commercial debut followed by a prompt retreat into their own artistic vision. Of course detractors will point out that Fever Dream is the group’s sleekest and most overproduced record to date, but in this case, it’s important to note that creating pop music does not necessarily signify a cash grab. Of Monsters and Men use Fever Dream to reject the expectation that they’re nothing more than a “made-for-radio” indie folk band, and based on these results I’d tend to agree with them. This could be the group’s strongest offering to date, and it’s a noticeable few steps outside of their comfort zone. Here’s to hoping that they continue to wander astray.




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user ratings (64)
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Ashtiel
July 26th 2019


692 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm just glad to have these guys back, if anything.

the vocal harmonies are absolutely on point though, especially from Nanna who I feel reaches some new heights on this album.

Digging: Blood Cultures - Happy Birthday

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 26th 2019


32075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Was not expecting to like this as much as I do. It ditches their folksy side for a poppier gleam, and is better than it has any business being. Still a few pitfalls into generic territory, especially lyrically, but overall a very nice surprise.



Edit: 100% agreed about Nanna's vocals. I thought nothing could top her performance on 'Organs' from the last album, but she sounds truly angelic on this thing. She's really grown into the true "lead" role over Ragnar. The way she sounds on 'Sleepwalker' when she sings "Sleepwalking in Mexico, the lights ou-out / I still dream in indigo when you're around" is breathtaking, and somehow she's even better on 'Róróró' - which I think is her new highwater mark vocally.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Gyromania
July 26th 2019


28303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes!

MikeAkerfeldt89
July 26th 2019


8 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Very well written review. I second your thoughts on it. Some people grasp so much onto the past, they are unable to see evolution!

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2019


7998 Comments


Liked the singles, will check

Digging: Blood Cultures - Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs

Lucman
July 26th 2019


3182 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm not surprised they ditched the folk sound for this. That ship has sailed long ago in the mainstream (and I'm so happy for that). I'll give this a cursory listen.

Digging: Courtney Swain - Between Blood and Ocean

TundraL5Z
July 26th 2019


3149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Surprised how much I enjoyed this, it has the poppy gleam although I would still call it quite natural sounding, I think their core sound is still their, which is my biggest plus, just a really nice record as a whole

Lucman
July 26th 2019


3182 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Wow, this sounds like a completely different band and they're better for it too. Sleepwalker is beautiful.

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 26th 2019


32075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Awesome, Luc. That's one of my favorite tracks here too.

theBoneyKing
July 26th 2019


17163 Comments


“Alligator” sucks and I’ve never been too into these guys so prob gonna skip this.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thought they kind of lost the plot on their last album but I love this

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


32075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

How good is Nanna's voice on Róróró though

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of my faves and scarily the song i'm playing atm lol

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wars might be my favourite

Aerisavion
July 27th 2019


1705 Comments


Dammit I wanted this one but haven’t had time around work. Beneath the Skin is fucking gorgeous.

Gyromania
July 27th 2019


28303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

after 4 plays, Róróró is a soty contender. will definitely rank high on my soty playlist, and will more than likely make it onto my top 100 songs of the decade. Wars is also really damn good, and Sleepwalker, Under A Dome, and Waiting For The Snow

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


32075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Róróró and Sleepwalker are definitely my clear cut favorites. The rest falls between "above average" and "excellent", with most of the tracks leaning towards the stronger side of things.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
July 27th 2019


15633 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the dude at my record shop was trying to get me to buy this yesterday. given the positive review, i think i'll have to check this now.

Digging: Chelsea Wolfe - Birth of Violence

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 27th 2019


32075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

given their shift in sound/dynamic, this actually wouldn't be a bad place to start with the band because there'd be no preconceived expectations about them being folk/indie

this is more or less just synth pop, but good synth pop at that

alamo
July 27th 2019


1734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is closing track a buckethead cover



jk listening to this rn lets see



saw them live on the beneath the skin era and it was a fucking gorgeous experience

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell



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