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on April 5, 2012
In 2010, Of Monsters and Men won Músiktilraunir, Iceland's nationwide battle-of-the-bands competition. For those that may not think of this as an impressive feat, keep in mind Iceland is the country that has given us the likes of Sigur Rós and Björk. Drawing early comparisons to Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Of Monsters and Men is an alternative folk sextet led by the vocal pair Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson. After a race between labels to sign the band, Of Monsters and Men landed with Universal Music Group and now their highly anticipated debut is finally here.

Considering the recent success of debut records by Mumford and Sons as well as The Head and The Heart, fans' expectations for Of Monsters and Men are understandably high. With a wide variety of instruments including brass, accordion, glockenspiel, melodica, piano, and guitar filling any of the gaps left by the stellar vocal harmonies, Of Monsters and Men have clearly latched onto a winning formula within their genre. The two lead vocalists could both easily carry an album on their own, but it is the blending of their voices that sets Of Monsters and Men apart from any act that could be considered their competition.

There are many moments, however, when one of the two voices is given the lead. The result is as much a pleasant change of pace as it is a means for building the overall emotion of the song. For instance, on "King and Lionheart," Nanna takes the opening of each verse alone, but Ragnar's voice is gradually blended in more and more. The instrumentation of the track grows substantially behind the voices as well so by the time Nanna and Ragnar are both harmonizing every word together, the energy of the entire song has flourished.

Similar to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' debut, "My Head is an Animal" remains far more positive and upbeat than Mumford and Sons' "Sigh No More." The album's opener, "Dirty Paws," is a song about war, but when that war is between bees, birds, and furry animals, it's hard not to smile as you listen. With a chorus of "la la las" and the occasional chant of "hey!" the band practically forces their audience to sing along.

Even the album's slowest moments have aspects that move the music forward and keep it from ever feeling tired. The track "Slow and Steady" lives up to its name in pace, but a heartbeat kick drum accompanied by a shimmering, reverb-laden electric guitar adds just enough to the harmonized vocal work to keep the five minute track from becoming labeled as filler.

The debut single from "My Head Is an Animal" is "Little Talks" and has been making its way around U.S. radio waves since August of last year. Fans of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will quickly hear similarities to the song "Home" thanks to the call and response between the two singers, the remaining members' chants during the chorus, and most importantly, the trumpets. Of Monsters and Men are well versed in the success of their predecessors, but there is still plenty of imagination in their lyrics and blend of instruments which keeps "My Head Is an Animal" from ever feeling like a copy.

With music that builds such as many of the songs on "My Head Is an Animal" do, anticipation is an element that bands often overlook. In some cases, a band will just add to the number of instruments or increase the volume without building any anticipation of things to come. The music can still be enjoyable, but if the moves are predictable or there is nothing to surprise the listener, it's harder to make the song stand out. On "Dirty Paws" and "Love Love Love," the band uses pauses in the music just long enough to make the listener wonder what happened. It's amazing how such a simple gesture can so greatly affect a song. Following these pauses, everything feels bigger and bolder. Although this technique is more common in a live setting, to hear it on a recording makes the first listen especially exciting.

"My Head Is an Animal" is a fun record. That alone deems it worthy of a listen, but there is far more to it than mostly positive lyrics and sing-along choruses. There is also a certain musical chemistry between the members of the band that finds its way into the recording. The harmonies, not just between Nanna and Ragner but the entire band, are extraordinary. Every voice, both vocal and instrumental is given its chance to shine and when they're needed, reverb and delay effects never grow to a point of distraction. Like Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More," "My Head Is an Animal" introduces a band experienced beyond their years. To release a record like this at any point in a musical career is exceptional, but to release it as a debut is astounding. There are still plenty of records to look forward to in 2012, but look for "My Head Is an Animal" to make many "best of" lists come December.

Track Suggestion: "Little Talks"
66 comments198 of 208 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Don't miss this group, of whom I know very little, having just heard them for the first time today. I didn't even bother to wait - this is a CD I wanted now. That doesn't happen very often for me, and admittedly I have eclectic taste, but I am simply stunned with OM&M, their vivacity, freshness, their very obvious difference. Excellent vocals as their voices are not typical or routine nor even "similar to so and so," and that is so to their credit. They aren't trying to be anyone else, anything already worn down to a nub from over-familiarity.

Initially it was their curious type of musicality that gripped me, I will listen to anything, once, but if you manage to "sound" different that will get a second listen. I have spent all day unpacking this sound; they do have their musical quirks, which can be described as bouncy, effervescent, soaring, energetic, even jaunty, like swathes of shimmering silk banners, and then, it all pales and almost shivers with melancholy. Add in her breathy voice, possibly the most interesting, original vocalizing since the lead singer for the Cranberries and the drifting, weaving, tickling layers of sound around her voice and it is enough to make you just stop and HEAR, with that wonderful, priceless sensation as if for the first time.

In time I will put it all together, words, images, interplay between their complementary vocalists, male and female, but for now, and I hope a long time, I just don't want to lose that shock of something so unexpected that it makes you happy.

There is not a poor or sloppy or wasted track, the whole CD, whether played in shuffle or in order, works; nothing whiny, cloying, tedious or intentionally fatuous in their efforts, what an amazing body of sound here. Like the best of Modest Mouse (a sound in perpetual confusion as to what it is, which I rather like, and is only one indie example) OM&M delivers, but with more consistency.

Do something great for yourself today, GET this CD, and maybe it will be Mountain Sound, or Dirty Paws, or Lake House, but it will be one of them that makes you just stop and think, omg, to HEAR is such a delight, and they make you feel it too, not just hear it, but feel it. Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Like the first time I heard Mozart's Magic Flute, music in particular has the ability to just make you thrilled to be alive!
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on April 5, 2012
We all know Of Monster and Men's hit title, Little Talks. This album features that stunner and a slew of hits. The album is a breath of fresh air, and any true fan of music will absolutely love every song and will find themselves humming along. Do yourself a favor, if you are a fan of Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire, or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, do yourself a favor, and support this magnificent indie band.
11 comment47 of 50 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 16, 2012
Music like this is the reason God gave us ears. This band is a gentle reminder of the beauty that can be found in something as simple and yet as complex as sound.

EDIT: or....maybe two sentences.
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on November 12, 2012
Of Monsters And Men is a great new band, and My Head is an Animal is an amazing album, so for that reason i highly recommend buying this.
The vinyl itself is actually really good, probably the best new vinyl I've bought. It is perfect for either listening to or playing. One thing I wanted to see when I was buying was more description of the vinyl, so here it is. It comes as a gate fold, double pink vinyl, with 3 songs on each side. The gate fold fold is the same as the paper CD case for this album. It is overall a great purchase.
66 comments11 of 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 5, 2012
I have never been so excited for an album's release since I first heard this band's "Little Talks" several months ago on Alt Nation xm radio. I was even tempted to order it from Iceland and have it shipped to the US. Believe me when I say that purchasing this album will be your purchase of the year.

From up-tempo songs to slower ballads, this album is so well-rounded it's unbelievable. The lyrics are beautiful, the melodies and harmonies seem to flow independent of one another, and the instrumental portions add another key component to several songs. I completely agree with one of the previous reviewers about the way the two lead vocals weave their voices in and out of several songs. "Mountain Sound" and "Slow and Steady" were not previously released and were added to this album, and I believe Mountain Sound could be a radio hit within weeks. The band really seems to pour every ounce of themselves into this album, and it did not go unnoticed by this listener.

And just to add, I saw one of their live shows in Philadelphia during their small US/Canada tour, and if you ever have a chance to see them live, I highly recommend it.
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on October 29, 2012
Words can't describe how good this album makes me feel. Of the 14 tracks about 11 of them are standout, but there are so many moments when my heart just wants to cry out in tears of joy. Music this good makes time stand still and gives one but fleeting glimpses of a much more beautiful and perfect world.
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on May 18, 2012
I stumbled upon Of Monsters when I was doing some research about one of my favorite bands, Sigur Ros. I quickly bought `My Head is an Animal' and instantly liked it. The songs on this album are borderline pop- with a great mix of the folksiness of bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnificent Zeros, the Arcade Fire and even a slice of Fleet Foxes, yet there is sweetness to their music that reminds me of a spring day, windows down, sun shining, music loud.

The biggest complaint that I have is that the album seems too repetitive. That folk sound, the `Heys!' the strumming of the chords is similar in every single song, there is little growth or distinction from track to track. The problem is that finding the sound of the band is a sure way to provide the fans with great music, but to me it signals a huge problem for future endeavors. There are no single songs that come across as the best or the worst, they are all the same. With `My Head is an Animal' the formula works well, but tracks on an album are meant to evolve, to grow, to give the listener a music experience- a revelation and it is not here.

Of Monsters and Men are definitely a band that I will watch and hope that they can grow in their craft. I think that the talent is there, from the song writing to the melodies.

To be clear, I do not think that these musicians are a lost cause, there is clear talent here, but I think they do not have voice of their own. It is almost like 'folk-pop' or what have you. You have the folk musicians, such as Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket and even Iron & Wine and then you have those bands that are more commericially exceptable, such Mumford and Sons- each different type of folk artist I welcome with open arms, but there is a distinction between these musicans. What I find with Monsters is that they are trying to find what direction that they want to go- and that is NOT to say that they cannot be genre-less, the album is just a mixture.

I like their sound- they are a welcomed new breeze in a land of boring, I just expect more I guess. But, by all means given them a try if you like Mumford & Sons, the National and even Bon Iver. You will not feel as though you have wasted time getting lost in the head of the animal- you just may have a hard time (like myself) waiting for the next step in the evolution of Monsters and Men.

Favorite Track: Little Paws.
1212 comments37 of 51 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 29, 2012
Very cohesive album. All the songs have a similar style without being overly repetitive. I would recommend this album. Great band!
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on January 2, 2013
Originally posted at Nose in a Book

Very rarely does an album make me fall in love quite the way this one did. Of Monsters and Men is an Icelandic band that won Músíktilraunir, a music contest in Iceland. Although this band formed in 2009, it has started to pick up steam in 2011, and more momentum in 2012.

They say that certain music comes into your life at certain times that you weren't even aware that you needed it. This is that album. This is summer 2012 for me. That fact is important to point out for me. I assumed Mumford & Sons Sigh No More would be my album until Babel came out. (A month! A month!) But then Of Monsters and Men's My Head is an Animal took over my life in the best way possible. All I do is listen to this album. At work, in the car, while doing homework. This album is playing. My BFF and I are going to Vegas in less than two weeks to go to a book signing with Tina. I'm the driver. If they don't like My Head is an Animal by the beginning of the trip, they will by the end. Or they'll suck it up because I get amazing MPG in my car. We'll see.

The album starts off with "Dirty Paws." Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar "Raggi" þórhallsson make it clear, this is our sound and we know how to rock it. And rock it, they do. Along with the rest of the band. They own their sound in the best way that they can. Then "King and Lionheart" comes on. This is my song. If only one song on this album can be my summer of 2012 song. This is it. It sums up about 90% of my friendships with people. And "Monster Sound?" Can þórhallsson just sing to me 24/7. I mean, I can't pronounce his last name, but his voice makes me overly calm and content. They can even slow it down. Or really slow it down with songs such as "Slow and Steady." Of course they pick it up quickly with songs such as their current hit "Little Talks."

Just give them a shot, I promise you'll like them, and if you don't please don't tell me. I don't deal with review failure well. I do blame them for getting me through Summer of 2012 grad school classes.
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