Of Monsters and Men is a six piece from the giant isolated island of Iceland. More specifically they come from Garður, a small town of 1,452 people. The band itself consists of singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, co-singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsso. Together they create an intriguing mix of pop and folk music.
The band itself formed very organically as lead singer Hilmarsdóttir was trying to start her act, Songbird. As the music gained complexity built she added Þórhallsson, and eventually the project evolved into Of Monsters and Men. The band got its first big break at Músiktilraunir, when they won a battle of the bands, and since then have been gaining exposure slowly but surely. In 2011 the band released the song “Little Talks”, and by summer the track hit number one in Iceland. This led to exposure throughout the U.S. and eventually their first album, My Head is an Animal was released in Iceland, and in early April it was released in the U.S.
My Head is an Animal is a carefully crafted album featuring twelve tracks, and running at a very reasonable, 56 minutes. The first track is entitled “Dirty Paws” and starts out with a very soft acoustic guitar, and dual vocals by Hilmarsdóttir and Þórhallsson. Eventually the full band kicks in at the chorus. This quiet, then loud dynamic is continued until the song then ends triumphantly and fades. This is when the next track, “King and Lionheart” starts. This song start off with a lightly strummed acoustic guitar, which then gets a beautiful vocal by Hilmarsdóttir laid over it. The band builds its momentum, and then launch into a chorus that sounds like Lissie mixed with Mumford and Sons. The next track that really caught my attention was entitled “Slow and Steady”. “Slow and Steady” is a beautiful composition featuring a well arranged accompaniment, especially the drums which are actually very musical. I was also vert impressed with the layering of guitar parts that are set perfectly back in the mix, and give it a very open and wide feel. The jovial track “Little Talks” was the next track that grabbed my interest. It starts with an upbeat horn line which is followed by a verse with just guitar that builds towards a very fulfilling chorus. “Your Bones” is the ninth track on the album, and features a beautiful vocal performance by Þórhallsson, with only occasional vocal input from Hilmarsdóttir. “Yellow Light” is the final track on the album and it ends the collection in a very serene and peaceful manner.
Overall I believe that My Head is an Animal is a genius collection of tracks, and I hope to see more from this tremendous act in the future.
Check Out The music video for “Little Talks” below: