Of Monsters and Men: My Head Is An Animal


Maybe it’s the isolation of being Icelandic that gives Of Monsters and Men their charm. Maybe it’s their rose-tinted sincerity or their ability to make dramatic yet inviting folk rock. Perhaps it is merely a combination of all of these that make Of Monsters and Men seem so universally appealing.

With their debut album, My Head is an Animal, the band has already sold out thirteen shows on their first US tour. The outfit formed almost unintentionally when singer, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, looking for more musicians to outfit her solo act Songbird, stumbled upon her vocal counterpart, Ragnar Þórhallsson. In 2010 they were joined by guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson to create Of Monsters and Men. The band grew rapidly in acclaim after wining Músiktilraunir, a yearly battle of the bands in Iceland.

With production assistance from Aron Arnaarsson, and Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, and Cold War Kids) and mixing by Craig Silvey, (Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire) it’s no wonder this six piece band is able to achieve a sound with such crisp minimalist elegance. It seems to be an almost premeditated notion that the simplicity of their music will accentuate its beauty, much like the natural beauty of their native land is augmented by the absence of interference.

The duel vocals of Nanna and Ragnar are one of the most differentiating aspects of Of Monsters and Men. They switch off and intermingle on songs throughout the album. Their voices mesh so harmoniously no flaws can be detected. The band states that they draw inspiration from the stories they hear and that themes of loneliness and heartbreak run through their album despite their attempts for an upbeat, sing along feel. However, My Head is an Animal is an easy and enjoyable listen with many different levels of emotion.

Of Monsters and Men has a sound most congruous to Mumford & Sons, but a variety of their songs bear resemblance to other modern bands as well. On the vibrant, trumpet and accordion heavy “Little Talks,” the exuberance of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros grows stronger with every “hey!” between the lines, “Don’t listen to a word I say/ the screams all sound the same/ though the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.” Their song “Yellow Light,” on the other hand, emits an almost opposite effect of extreme calm that would be similar to the effect of any song by the XX.  If any band should be able to profit greatly from the popularity of modern folk music, it’s this one.


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