Monday, 3 September 2012

Review: Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

 The other day, my older sister was telling me of the many adventures she has undergone on listening to Radio 1, and told me at one point they played a song from rising metalcore quintet Of Mice & Men and that it turned out to be pretty good. To hear praise for a metal song coming from my sister is frankly something I've never heard in my life, so as you can imagine it was a complete comedown to normality and large disappointment when it turned out she in fact meant she had heard a song from Icelandic indie sextet Of Monsters and Men, when she heard Little Talks, the lead single from their critically acclaimed debut album My Head is an Animal. However, upon listening to the album, I can't be too disappointed by anything to come from getting these bands mixed up. Of Monsters and Men have shown up with a real talent for crafting songs.

 The simple factor of My Head is an Animal is the manner in which it plays out in an entirely gentle and soothing manner from the delicate strumming that opens the album on Dirty Paws to the immersive beauty that ends the album on Yellow Light. It's from the delicacy that you identify the exact emotional tones the group try to capture delivered through the atmospheric stylings of guitar and drum patterns and the frequent duets between co frontpeople Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson which also packs a lot of emotion in spite of the sense of smallness displayed within their singing.

 With this combination, the group find themselves with an ability to create a range of spacious atmospherics that absorbs listeners into the subtle grandeur of King and Lionheart and Mountain Sand with the use of echoey production and firm melodies. Sometimes these songwriting principles manage to obtain a more fun energetic sound, whether it's in the fun fast-moving sound of Six Weeks or the irresistibly uplifting Little Talks, a stellar choice for an album's lead single. Other times, things are toned down and the likes of Love Love Love and Lakehouse take on a breezier form, presenting themselves with a touch of gentle balladry, which led by the vocals of Hilmarsdóttir sound entirely vulnerable and more gripping as a result. Hilmarsdóttir proves herself to have the perfect voice for the gently played folk songs that capture the sound of Iceland. It would be too easy to compare her to Björk, but such a voice can be identified effortlessly.

 But really, there isn't much that listeners can't identify themselves within when listening to My Head is an Animal. While only so much can be done in the creation of folk songs, Of Monsters and Men prove themselves to be ever dynamic in their songwriting, showing that there's always some other trick up their sleeves. Whether they sing of love or loss, wish to celebrate and sit back and talk of times past in a manner of melancholy, they do it with complete sincerity. And for a group of six people to do create these tones with the use of traditional instruments is breathtaking.

 In a world in which this entire scene of "indie folk" is slowly but surely infecting the mainstream, Of Monsters and Men is another group that no fan of Feist, Bon Iver or even the less desirable Mumford & Sons could resist. You could see them as being more beautiful than any of these other acts and there would be strong evidence to support it and even in my disappointment when I realised my sister was enjoying the work of another alternative band rather than starting her journey to becoming a metal fan with Of Mice & Men, My Head is an Animal surpasses my expectations by miles. There's a chance that Of Monsters and Men may be treated in a trendy manner and people may obsess over Little Talks for a while then forget it as my sister has done and eventually will do and that would be a shame because this is a band deserving as far more than to be part of a brief mainstream trend.

Of Monsters and Men's My Head is an Animal is out now via Universal. The band will tour the UK in February 2013.

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