Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is an Animal
Record Label: Universal Republic Records
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Last year, I came across Icelandic indie-pop/folk band Of Monsters and Men on accident; I found them through a music website that had a blog post talking about 10 bands that are very underrated. Of Monsters and Men were one of these bands. I had vaguely heard of them for awhile, but I always thought they were some generic post-hardcore, and most people do seem to think that, which is a bit saddening. However, I didn’t let that get in the way, and I was quite surprised when I found out they’re an indie band. That’s fantastic, though, because this is my favorite kind of music. They also released debut record My Head Is an Animal last year, but it was a different version. For this review, however, I’ll focus on the US re-release that most people know and have heard before. Personally, I enjoy this new version much more, but I’ll get to that comparison later on.
I’ll be totally upfront about my opinion on this band, and this record. They are one of the best bands I’ve ever come across, personally. I know people will disagree with me, but there’s just something about this band that I absolutely love. I guess it’s their brand of indie-pop with folk sensibilities. They remind me of British band Mumford & Sons in that respect, because they’re the perfect band to get into if you’re very new to folk music. It can be a hard thing to really get into, and I am into a bit of it. However, I enjoy indie-pop/rock much more. This band really does have a perfect balance with it.
The record starts off with “Dirty Paws,” and it’s immediately noticed that this is a band with dual vocalists, much in the vein of bands like The Head and the Heart, and the xx, who have both a male and female vocalist. Female vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir is one of my favorite female vocalists that I’ve ever heard. She sounds lovely, and she does shine quite a bit. She takes the stage for a lot of the record, which isn’t bad, because her voice is fantastic. Male vocalist Ragnar Þórhallsson also has a pretty enjoyable voice, and he does take the stage for a few songs on the record, but another thing I like about this band is the balance they have between both vocalists. One of them is not overshadowed, and I may given that impression, but they remind of the xx in that sense where they use both vocalists to their advantage. “Dirty Paws” is a great opening song because it features everything that’s fantastic about Of Monsters and Men – lyrics that take you to a faraway place, dual vocalists that compliment one another, and a nice balance between indie-pop and folk. It’s a very strong opening track, and in fact, the first three songs are just absolutely darling. Second track “King and Lionheart” is my favorite on the record, and is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. This is another that demonstrates what Of Monsters & Men do well. It beings with Nanna’s voice (I’ll be using their first names, because I cannot pronounce their last names for the life of me), and she certainly shines on this track. The production on this record is something I also really like; there’s a balance between organic, and obviously studio-production. For some reason, I feel like this album is being played in front of me. Third track “Mountain Sound” is another metaphorical punch; this is another extremely catchy song that could easily attain mainstream success. They already have a bit of success under their belts, and this is a song that could easily be a single.
Fourth track “Slow and Steady” is kind of what the title is – it’s a much slower track with very interesting lyrics really do paint a picture. That’s one reason why I absolutely love this record, because the lyrics on it are beautiful, frankly. This band does come off as extremely sincere and very humble as well. Nanna’s vocals also are on a majority of this song, and the way she sings it is so haunting, yet absolutely beautiful. This is also one of the longer tracks, and it’s absolutely enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like it’s five minutes, and it also references the album again, as the first track “Dirty Paws” does, but it’s not a similar reference.
Sixth track “Little Talks” is the track that most people know by this band, and that’s the song that’s getting a lot of international success, which makes sense, because another one of my favorite tracks on the whole record. It definitely is another one that sums up what this band does very well. I enjoy this track a lot because both singers sing to one another, essentially. It’s like a conversation, and I love that a lot.
As the album goes on, “Six Weeks” is another very long track, but wow, it’s fantastic. This is certainly one of the highlights of the record. It’s not my favorite, but there are a lot of favorites. I also love the halfway point when it comes a chant, so to speak, and this is also a song where male vocalist Ragnar sings most of the song on his own, and it’s one of the only times where he sings most of the song in his lonesome. He does have a very nice, and it is quite distinct. Not the best vocals I’ve ever heard, but that’s okay, because he’s pretty darn close. Eighth track “Love Love Love” is another track I should mention, because this is one of the best tracks on the record, and one of the catchiest, too. I always say the last track on a record is important, and that’s true for single record in existence. If the last track is just as strong as the first track, you’ve got a solid record. In Of Monsters and Men’s case, “Yellow Light” is a great closing track.
Earlier in the review, I mentioned that there were some differences with the Icelandic release. The most obvious one is the artwork, but that’s irrelevant. The tracklisting is a bit different on both versions, including tracks added, subtracted, but the biggest change is last track “Yellow Light.” On the original version, it originally was 15 minutes long with a hidden track at the very end. In this version, it’s only five minutes long, and therefore, the album is shorter by about 6 minutes.
Overall, though, this is an ultimately beautiful record. I wouldn’t describe it any other way. It’s beautiful in every way, in fact; everything about this record, and this band really works. It’s one of the strongest debut records I’ve heard from a band in so long. Why this band isn’t more internationally known is beyond me.