Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is an Animal
Let's get this out of the way: Of Monsters and Men will not be a one-hit wonder band. There is plenty of promise on their debut (which is getting a release over here almost a year after it surfaced in their homeland of Iceland), and if it seems a little front-loaded, it's because the first half of the album is pretty much flawless. If it were a little more balanced out, it'd sound like a much more rounded album. It's not like this is a criticism; it's rather difficult to keep up the kind of momentum generated by songs as undeniably brilliant as current single 'Little Talks' (that song that's taken over radio for the last month or so and sounds a bit like Arcade Fire<, just in case you're reading this and haven't been able to place it up until now), or forthcoming second single 'Mountain Sound', which boasts arguably the best hook on the album - but they should be paid their dues, because they make a damn good effort to do so.
Kicking off with 'Dirty Paws' (the song from which the album title is taken), an expansive, up-tempo folk-pop song that features a whimsical narrative and some great vocal interplay between Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson. 'My Head is an Animal' doesn't waste time in making its presence felt. In a similar manner, 'King and Lionheart' is an intoxicating blend of melodic precision (if you're not a fan of having one song go round in your head for days at a time, steer clear of it) and a cinematic approach to songwriting. They're no less effective when they want to strip things back a bit, though - 'Slow and Steady' is driven by confident drumming, courtesy of Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, and is the hidden gem amongst the album's opening sextet of songs, finding its counterpart in the album's penultimate track, the lighters-aloft anthem 'Lakehouse'.
The thing that's most impressive about the album is that there's not even a trace of filler; My Head Is an Animal avoids the pitfalls that debut albums can so often fall foul of, and even as the album draws to its close, the pure pop of 'Love Love Love' and the infectious acoustic guitar hook that opens 'Sloom' (another song filled with vivid and off-beat imagery), there is a sense that even if the bar was initially set too high, they're well capable of building on what they've got. There's a half-dozen brilliant singles here, but the reason the album works so well is that it's more than just a statement of where Of Monsters and Men are at. Even if they've been touring it for a year, it's been given a new lease on life, and it's going to make them a big deal in the months to come. Best of all, though, it points towards their second album being something to behold, and the potential is, quite frankly, staggering.