Rolling Stone magazine has likened them to Mumford and Sons and Arcade Fire. In 2010, they won their homeland’s battle of the bands competition. Their catchy, folky tunes have listeners humming the melodies for days on end, and their whimsical album art is unique and intriguing. They have attracted fans around the world without even
releasing a full album on this side of the Atlantic. “How is this possible?” you may be asking, and with good reason. It is nearly impossible for musicians today to make a splash outside their country of origin without excessive publicity. This is all very true, unless of course, you’re a member of the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men.
Of Monsters and Men is an indie-folk band hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland.
The group formed over the course of a few years. At first, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir
was a solo performer. Then, in 2010, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, Ragnar þórhallsson and Brynjar Leifsson joined the project.
In 2010, the quartet entered, and ultimately won Músiktilraunir, a national battle of the bands contest. It’s not surprising to see why they won, either. Though the competition was fierce, Monsters performs with a blank-faced earnestness and innocence that has become so difficult to find in the music industry today. This is not to say that their performance skills are weak, though; in fact, just the opposite is true. There is a quiet confidence in their playing, and they gain strength as they continue to play.
After their victory at Músiktilraunir, two more members joined the party, Kristján Páll Kristjánsson and Árni Guðjónsson.
Their debut album, My Head is an Animal was released in Iceland
last September to almost unanimously positive reviews online. (I have no
grounding in Icelandic, but I’m sure it was well received there.) Online,
reviewers have praised My Head is an Animal to no end, describing it as “an absolutely wonderful album,” with a distinct “catchy and raw” sound. With regards to the songs themselves, “catchy and raw” is truly the most accurate
description I can think of. In addition to the typical drums-guitar-bass-vocal
band cookie cutter, the group has experimented with trumpets and accordions in
their music. We can’t forget to mention the truly whimsical lyrics. Each song
tells a unique, personal story. When asked about the meaning behind their songs
in an interview with earmilk.com, guitarist/singer Ragnar Þórhallsson said, “It’s
no fun to say what songs are about! We like keeping it a secret.”
So how did Monsters make it big over here? The
answer: Seattle’s KEXP Radio. The station recorded a broadcast of the band’s hit single Little Talks last fall and the rest is history. Of Monsters and Men released their first EP Into the Woods on iTunes just before Christmas; My Head is an Animal is scheduled for
release on April 3rd. The whole album is fantastic, but my personal
favourites are Sloom, Your Bones, From Finner, King and Lionheart, and of course, Little Talks.
If you are in need of some music to relieve stress, study with, or just
make you smile, check out Of Monsters and Men. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.