Of Monsters and Men’s music is best described as the modernization of classic storytelling. The band specializes in adding contemporary nuances to the grandeur of mythology. Utilizing the power of the spoken –- or in their case, sung –- word to tell epic legends of monsters and the heroes who face them, the Icelandic band brings folklore into the 21st century.
The six-person indie folk band from Reykjavík, Iceland broke into the music hemisphere during the acclaimed Iceland Airwaves festival in 2010, standing out among the many impressive acts the festival featured. My Head is an Animal is the band’s freshman album, released first in Iceland in February 2011 and this week in the United States.
Of Monsters and Men is like the love child of the XX, Fleet Foxes, and the Decemberists, who, after being born, spent his young life overlooking fjords and reading classic Nordic legends. Their music is at times both soothing and haunting -– like a bedtime story of years past. At other moments, it is upbeat and fun. This is especially true of their single “Little Talks,” which is jubilant and, on surface, carefree. While it features dark and eerie themes, the pure exuberance of the music makes this undeniably catchy song both multidimensional and utterly unique. With lyrics that are reminiscent of a ghost story, the song ends with a message of strength and hope. Close your eyes while listening to the album, and you’ll picture children running through sprawling fields with flowers braided in their hair.
Yet at the same time, the modern world slips into the songs. The line where the virgin seaside country ends and industrialized city begins is blurred. The songs, in a way, mimic the history of Iceland itself. The best example of this is their song “Sloom.” The song begins with lead male vocalist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson ringing out, “The sea said goodbye to the shore so the sun wouldn’t notice,” appealing to the natural world. Soon lead female vocalist Nanna Bryndís’ ethereal voice rivals said appeal to nature with allusions to the city, proclaiming, “They cast the silhouette as big as a monster in this concrete jungle. The streetlights hang in their house.” Yet the song does more than just comment on the natural world. Like the purpose of all folklore, Of Monsters and Men’s music comes from a place of raw human emotion.
Love is a common theme in the album: losing it, gaining it, struggling with it. This is best exemplified in their ballad “Love, Love, Love,” which evokes emotions that are bordering on too raw, too real. The purity of the song’s emotions can bring back painful memories of unrequited love and unbalanced relationships. We have all been there. We have tried to love when we couldn’t. We have felt like “a bad, bad, bad, bad person,” more than we probably deserve. The song lingers in your mind long after it is played. But then again, when was the last time a fairytale didn’t linger in your mind long after it was told? When the cheerful and grandiose façade dies away, we are left with the relatable and truthful themes that sit just below the surface.
Then on the other side of the spectrum, we have “From Finner,” which tells the legend of a whaler in the style of a Greek epic that would make Homer proud. It is both mystical and majestic. This is equally true of “King and Lionheart,” which is like if the Odyssey’s Cyclops lore met the Chronicles of Narnia. The vivid imagery directly puts its listeners on the rocky ocean right off the coast of Iceland. And let’s be honest, that sounds like an amazing adventure, even if only during a quick daydream. The brilliance of My Head is An Animal is that it gives its listeners a chance at real escapism. One is transported to a world that is radically different than what is found in the average American’s life.
With a virtually sold-out international tour, the band that gives off such an intimate vibe has gathered a sizable global following, launching them into the indie spotlight. It is no wonder too -– who doesn’t want a nice dose of make-believe in their reality (especially a dose that is wrapped up in a smooth, folksy package)?
Of Monsters and Men 2012 Tour Dates
04/06 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
04/07 – House of Blues – Boston, MA
04/09 – Club at Water Street Music Hall – Rochester, NY
04/10 – Jillian’s – Albany, NY
04/11 – La Salsa Rosa – Montreal, QC
04/12 – Virgin Mobile Mod Club – Toronto, ON
04/14 – Taste of Iceland @ Fillmore Silver Spring – Washington, DC
04/23 – Bitterzoet – Amsterdam, NL
04/24 – Le Nouveau Casino – Paris, FR
04/25 – AB Club – Brussels, BE
04/27 – Luxor – Koln, DE
04/28 – Lido @ Karrara Club Night – Berlin, DE
05/01 – Hoxton Bar and Kitchen – London, UK
05/02 – Lexington – London, UK
05/05 – KROQU Weenie Roast – Irvine, CA
05/24 – Venue Nightclub – Vancouver, BC
05/25 – Sasquatch Music Festival – George, WA
07/28 – Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party – Philadelphia, PA
07/29 – Newport Folk Festival – Newport, RI