It seems like cruel, poetic irony that I would write this article days after contributing a phony piece about a punk band from the Czech Republic, but I swear, I’m not fucking with you. Yeah, the band is called Of Monsters and Men, yeah, they’re from Iceland, and yeah, their debut effort is entitled My Head Is an Animal, but it’s as real as they come.
Though indie-folk by default industry definition, it’s evident that Of Monsters and Men try to push the envelope and break out of the confines of the genre, attaining an almost-Arcade Fire quality on some tracks, particularly “Little Talks,” the lead single off of the album. Driven by a sing-along trumpet hook and characterized by the tandem vocals of Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, “Little Talks” embodies everything the sextet stands for on My Head Is an Animal: folk songs that eschew the fragility so commonplace in many contemporary acts in favor of assertiveness and borderline-bombastic qualities.
Of Monsters and Men were propelled into the spotlight after unexpectedly winning a national battle of the bands competition in Iceland in 2010, and things really took off after the band filmed a session for Seattle radio station KEXP a few months later. With support and demand for their music, My Head Is an Animal was released in Iceland in September of last year, reaching number one on the charts. The international version, featuring thirteen tracks as opposed to eleven, dropped on Tuesday and contains stellar offerings like “Six Weeks,” “Numb Bears,” and “Lighthouse.”
Hilmarsdottir’s voice is a dead-ringer for Twin Cities darling Caroline Smith’s, so if you like what the Goodnight Sleeps are churning out, or if you like the Baroque pop stylings of Fleet Foxes and the Head and the Heart, or if you simply have your head screwed on the right way and appreciate Arcade Fire, there’s something on this album for you. My Head Is an Animal is the first album to come out this year that I’m actually going to buy. If that isn’t an indication that it deserves an hour of your time, I don’t know what is.