Published June 15, 2012
I moved to Los Angeles nine years ago, which is kinda the same as saying I’ve earned a Ph.D. in cynicism. It’s not as if everyone here is a jerk—as the joke goes, we have a bad side too. It’s just that, in a city so intimately tied to nearly every facet of entertainment, you grow accustomed to looking for the glue and strings holding things together. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has had their commute blocked by a film shoot. Magic is overrated.
This is precisely why Of Monsters And Men’s debut full-length succeeds so wildly. Meandering its way stateside some nine months after an initial release, ‘My Head is an Animal’ is a guileless folk-pop pleasure. The breezy eleven-song collection appears to be held together with a concept no larger than the quest for the perfect crescendo-led chorus. The charge is led by co-vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, marrying their voices together in pastoral harmony. Even for the most jaded, it is fair to call the result otherworldly (unless your day-to-day activities include spinning in a field á la Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’).
Granted, to tie any of the band’s attributes to their country of origin would be, at best, a tenuous argument (A quick internet search shows that listeners draw most comparisons with Arcade Fire or Mumford & Sons, rather than their Icelandic contemporaries). Still, there’s something to be said for Of Monsters
And Men’s ability to transcend the ordinary, even if the intoxicating combination of sweet romance and earworms of “Little Talks” edges ever closer to becoming ubiquitous radio fodder.
Still, it’s the quieter moments where Of Monsters And Men show the greatest potential to expand past their crescendo-heavy formula. “Love Love Love” is a heart-breaking paean to lost love, Nanna’s mournful voice sending off an indifferent lover with the help of a single guitar. But it is the album closer, “Yellow Light,” that shines the brightest. Its ethereal wordless chorus is not just enchanting, but outright haunting. Cynics in any nation need not apply.
Read our OTHER music critic’s take on the album here.