Howling Ghosts of the North: Of Monsters and Men (plus new music medley)

Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal

(If you’ve been following closely, you may have noticed a previous mention of this album when it was being spotlighted on NPR’s First Listen. At the time I suggested there might be more to follow. Here is the follow(ing):)

Stop! You had me at Iceland.

What is about this island floating in the northeastern North Atlantic filed with fjords, volcanoes, and geothermal baths that seems to be such rich fodder for indie-rock darlings? Perhaps, it’s the majesty and immensity of the nature surrounding them? See Sigur RosHeima (click for trailer).

Who knows but since Bjork burst on to the scene with the Sugarcubes in the late 80s, I have found myself fawning over Bjork’s eclectic body of pop, dance, big-band, experimental music along with the otherworldly compositions and singing of fellow country folks Sigur Ros and Mum. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that Of Monsters and Men, hailing from Gardabær, Iceland, located near Reykjavík, which, for the record, means “Cove of Smoke” because of all the geothermal pools, would win my heart (and ears) with such ease.  But, make no mistakes Of Monsters and Men are not Icelandic-Indie copycats.

Starting with a simple series of traditional folk chords, then slowly weaving in a pleasant vocal melody by the band’s front man and women, My Head is an Animal opens with a familiar formula before exploding into an unbridled sonic barrage of mirth and merriment reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Home. But, unlike “Home”, Of Monsters and Men‘s debut is brasher and bolder, with more of a hi-fi “wall of sound” polish – a sort of Arcade Fire Neon Bible magnanimity – however, always maintaining a pleasant intimacy. Musical brilliance aside, you will (likely) first fall for (teenage-like acoustic crush) the unique vocal styling of its female lead, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, a cross between forest sprite and village troubadour (remind you of anyone?) along with their colorful lyrics filled with woodland imagery evocative of Sendak’s …Wild Things and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, creating an inviting escape from the trappings of the mundane. So, yeah this is a folk rock record, a folk rock record on (non-addictive, non-narcotic) uppers! From the booming brass and horns of “Little Talks” to the village of voices exploding at the end of “Dirty Paws“, this is a massive, life-affirming, hip-shaking, smile inducing collection of indie-pop songs. Poignant and powerful, Of Monsters and Men walk a fine line between the quasi-anthemic (calling to mind the Canadian power-pop Stars) to slower, softer pensive ballads like “From Finner” and “Love Love Love” (reminiscent of early Sinead O’Connor or the Australian group Frente). All allusions aside, I think this Icelandic sextet are poised to please you, filling your stereo speakers (or ear-buds) with the perfect soundtrack or backdrop to a sun soaked spring/summer afternoon.  Let’s just say, I suspect you might be playing this album at a couple of gatherings (bbq, dinners, etc.) with friends this summer.

Click here to listen to My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men (and here to purchase via iTunes).

… if you enjoy, My Head is an Animal you might also like:

  • Stars – Set Yourself on Fire
  • the Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
  • Bjork – Debut and Post
    (adore the other albums but those are more electronic)
  • Sigur Ros – Takk
  • Frente – Marvin the Album
  • Broken Social Scene – You Forg0t It in People

In case you missed it…

Last time, I referenced NPR’s new All Songs Considered podcast, in case you want to hear the songs but not the chatter, click on this link (playlist on YouTube), which also contains some previously discussed songs.

“Gravitated towards a taste for foreign films and modern plays…“:  DCFC in Chicago

The Death Cab show was fantastic. If you weren’t keeping track (which I was a tad bit tuned out to), the boys from Bellingham are touring with an orchestra (the Magik*Magik Orchestra) and retooling their tracks to conform. Playing at the preeminent audiophile music venue in Chicago (the Chicago Theatre), the band played a well crafted and balanced set of just under two hours with songs from all of their albums, including “Bend to Squares”(Something About Airplanes), “Scientist Studies” (We Have the Facts…) “A Movie Script Ending” (the Photo Album) and the crowd favorites (and as previously predicted) “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and “Transatlanticism”.


  • Updated Show Listing – FYI Springsteen at Wrigley Field Tickets go on sale this Saturday
  • New Records to discuss from La Sera, Colleen Green, Caitlin Glennon, Anais Mitchell, and Sea of Bees. (Notice the trend?)
  • New Playlists for (bike)riding and reminiscing!!!


p.s. DON’T Forget: Record Store Day 2012 this Saturday. (I’ll be in line on Milwaukee Avenue and Honore at 9 a.m. with some coffee and a book waiting to snatch up the Uncle Tupelo 7″ collection. Feel free to pass by and heckle, throw peanuts or keep me company.)

When your soul embarks….

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