Of Monsters and Men: My Head is an Animal (Universal Republic)
Last week saw the UK release of \’My Head is an Animal’, the debut record from Iceland’s answer to Mumford & Sons, namely Of Monsters & Men. Chris Ledwidge has been listening to a copy of it all week & sent us the following review.
It’s quite strange in a world where music is spread so widely in digital formats across the internet, on blogs and download services, to be reminded that somewhere the album has also to be released in a physical format.
The band came to light when they won MÃÂºsiktilraunir, a battle of the bands competition in Iceland and after further gigs and song writing were invited to play at the Iceland Airwaves Festival. A live video of \’Little Talks’ recorded there caught on with blogs and their name grew outside of the country.
Over the year since it was released in Iceland ‘My Head is an Animal’ has become a huge crossover success. Every year there seems to be a band that breaks through to all audiences. Arcade Fire, which Of Monsters have been compared to, and Florence & the Machine and Mumford & Sons were, for me anyway, the crossover when their first albums broke. I’ve seen comments on other blogs about people being disappointed that Of Monsters are “gone all commercial” now that \’Little Talks’ is being played on MTV. Sometimes there’s just no holding back songs with the appeal of an indie guitar based band with the brass and accordion instrumentation highlighting some of the best pure pop hooks I’ve heard in a long time. They’re going to get out.
By hooks I don’t mean just one or two stand out songs, the album is full of them. There are at least 6 top singles here. It’s crammed full of melodies that are going to get stuck in your head, great choruses and it’s refreshing to see from a debut album, really no filler tracks. Each song has its tune in there somewhere be it in the vocal and brass combination in \’Lakehouse’ or in the piano and accordion line of \’Mountain Sound’. The instrumentation combinations and how the band uses vocal lines as another instrument is probably what is most interesting in the album for me.
It would be interesting to hear from the band why they chose to put the songs in this particular order. Overall it is well balanced but I think if the tracks had been listed in a different order could make for a very different listening journey. As they are the first half of the album stands out a little more and then mellows a little. I tried listening through in a random shuffle and indeed it really does change the feel of the whole record.
As a debut this is outstanding. I can only hope that the bands record label will allow them the freedom they will need when it comes to a follow up. It’s inevitable I think that they will want to explore themselves and expand on what they have achieved rather than being pressured into recreating another record full of stand out singles. However the potential for a huge career has been laid down here, for now I’ll enjoy \’My head is an Animal’ and worry about that when its time comes.
Of Monsters & Men tour across the UK from February 22nd to March 5th.
All words by Chris Ledwidge. This is Chris’s first piece for Louder Than War. You can find Chris on twitter as @chrisledwidge.