Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal album review

With concerts sold out internationally this Icelandic six-piece is rapidly becoming one of the most popular groups to hail from the region in recent years. Originally the solo project of singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, the extended group began to grow in popularity after winning an Icelandic battle of the bands competition in 2010. After getting significant airplay on Seattle’s KEXP with their single “Little Talks,” they quickly topped their native charts, signing to Record Records in 2011, then to Universal later the same year.

It’s not hard to understand why the group is gaining popularity. Their debut is infused with skillful catchy songwriting that addresses deeper personal issues while maintaining a light-hearted innocence. The unison vocal pairings of Hilmarsdóttir and þórhallsson produce a rich sound that maintains a unique and hearty quality without being overly monotonous, and the delicate yet powerful instrumentation creates a musical foundation that is effective but not overbearing.

Their lyrics reflect the emotive weight and style of the songs themselves. On “Slow and Steady” they sing, “I move slow and steady / but I feel like a waterfall.” The music is delicate and beautiful while at the same time maintaining a substantial amount of power.

The album maintains distinct themes of movement throughout. Animals, ships and images of travel and survival appear on many of the songs. In “Six Weeks” þórhallsson sings, “A wolf, wolf and I / Share the same cold meal / I float on, float on down.” While these themes are effective for some of the stronger songs (“Little Talks” and “King and Lionheart,” for example), they become redundant when over used.  Lost love appears as well, but is much less prominent theme on the album.

Of Monsters and Men have managed to create an impressive debut album. While creating hook filled tunes with a delicate hand, they simultaneously allow for depth and imagery that is both substantive and fantastical. Good luck finding tickets to their concerts, though.

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