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My Head is an Animal
Format: Audio CD|Change
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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"
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on October 29, 2015
First, let me say I love OMAM. The music gets five gold stars without question. All of their songs are richly layered with great vocals, percussion, strings, etc, etc. this comes through wonderfully on their CD's. Unfortunately the vinyl pressings have not done justice to the source material, at least not the copies I've bought and listened to.

Maybe it's just my copies, maybe there was a drunken spider monkey in charge of quality control the day my disks rolled off the press but a visual survey of the colored vinyl shows dips, bubbles and streaks throughout all sides of all the disks and you can hear these during playback. Background noise is really distracting (I have a nice TT and amp setup that normally brings out the best in both vintage and new lp's) and combined with the warbling that can be heard on some of the inner songs (that I don't hear on the digital version) makes both their debut and follow up pretty much unlistenable to my ears.

Again, love the band (they are awesome live), but I feel like I paid 50 bucks for blow ups of the cd cover art and four extra large skeet targets.

Hopefully a more audiophile directed edition (sorry if that sounds snooty, not meant to be) will be released some day. I think they have the potential to sound magnificent - give Arcade Fire's Neon Bible a listen for a idea of what could be.
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on November 14, 2016
I bought the vinyl edition to further feed my new addiction to the vinyl comeback. The record is great and it's one of my absolute favorite albums. It's in great condition and plays well. Now here's where it gets weird. This is the second time I've bought this album on vinyl. (The first was from barnes and noble but it was warped so I sent it back.) That first set was solid pink. All the others I have seen online are solid pink. But my new one is marbled with pink black and white. I attached a picture. Anyone have any thoughts?
review image
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on July 24, 2016
The album is unlike anything I've ever heard before. Sure it's folk or whatever you want to call it, but these guys truly have their own defined sound that really works. The superior musicianship of each individual in the band is showcased perfectly, and these guys really know how to work together to make very heart warming music. The pink vinyl tops it off. Personally, I like listening to this album best during a rainy early fall morning while sipping on delicious coffee and looking out the window and staring at the changing leaves.
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on July 27, 2012
I don't think that I've come across a debut album from an Icelandic rock band that was as good as Of Monsters and Men's since Sigur Ros's VON. Alright, so maybe Of Monsters and Men is the only other Icelandic rock band that I know... Regardless, of their origin, MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL is a fantastic album on almost all fronts. The band's sound is akin to that of Arcade Fire's FUNERAL or Mumford and Sons' SIGH NO MORE. It's an earthy, heartfelt sound that owes itself to a folky disposition. Unlike those two other bands though, Of Monsters and Men's album is mostly positive, upbeat, and life-affirming.

Honestly, the first time I listened to this album, the only song that really stood out was the lead single "Little Talks." After its first spin, I dismissed the band as a product of hype. A few weeks later, I picked MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL up again for another try, and, I'm not sure exactly what changed, but I couldn't believe what I had been missing out. There's a moral somewhere in this story, but I never seem to learn my lesson, so you might have to figure it out for yourself.

Seriously though, I listen to way too much music, and I can honestly say that MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL is one of 2012's most satisfying releases. It's a great album to explore, but it's also nice to just have in the background. The melodies and harmonies are all strong, the instrumentation is wonderful, and the arrangements are all very tasteful. The band utilizes two vocalists: one male, one female. Their harmonies melt together in such a way that is reminiscent of THE XX. This album is a treat.

This album makes me feel guilty about giving other records out there 5-stars. MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL is a consistently satisfying album by a band that everyone should be keeping their eye on. I would recommend this music to most anyone, but especially those who enjoy Mumford and Sons', Arcade Fire, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Essential tracks to sample/download: "Little Talks," "From Finner," and "Dirty Paws."
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"My Head Is An Animal" draws its CD title from the lyric of the opening track, "Dirty Paws," which is a bouncy anthem with what might be an allegory. With its pounding rhythm and vocals sounding like a chorus of female soldiers, it's incredibly catchy, "They used to sing about the birds & the bees; The bees had declared a war, the sky wasn't big enough for them all; The birds, they got help from below, from dirty paws and the creatures of snow." The second track "King & the Lionheart" continues in the same vein, an upbeat tune with a lyric that appears to be about continuing on in the face of difficulty, "Howling ghosts they reappear in mountains that are stacked with fear." "Mountain Sound" is the third track, completing a strong 1-2-3 punch for the freshman set of this Icelandic band. It has a similar sound, a march-like upbeat tempo like a soundtrack to an epic adventure. The ninth track, "Your Bones" is also a favorite of mine with male vocals -- Ragnar I assume -- that are passionate, "So hold on to your heart." I read the CD reached #6 on Billboard's top 200. It is easy to see why with such catchy music and interesting lyrics. Enjoy!
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on March 13, 2015
I have to say, I really enjoy the tracks on this album, from Icelandic folk-pop band, 'Of Monsters and Men'. I feel this album is really consistent from start to finish, and a really upbeat vibe; moving from track to track, with ease. I purchased this album, without knowing too much about the band, and because I liked their song 'King and Lionheart'. After listening to the album for the first time, I was hooked; it quickly became a regularly played cd in my collection. Personally, I love 'Folk-Pop' music, and loved the unique riffs and instruments played throughout the compositions. I would say, if you're a fan of 'Mumford and Sons', or 'Imagine Dragons', you'll love 'Of Monsters and Men'.
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on November 3, 2015
Of monsters & men has such a great album. They have such a variety of sound on the album and each song leaves you excited for the next! I, personally, don't really care that it comes with multiple records for one album, but I do love the fun pink colored vinyl. I would definitely recommend this album for anybody who is looking for a fun, new sound.
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Iceland never fails to amaze me with the talent that comes from there. They have given me the likes of Sigur Rós, Amiina, and Björk. Now they have given me the pleasure of listening to Of Monsters and Men and they are absolutely wonderful.

If you like other indie bands like Mumford and Sons, Arcade Fire, and The Naked and Famous, than you owe it to yourself to give Of Monsters and Men a good listen.

Of Monsters and Men is a six piece Indie Folk band with Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson and the helm being the two singers of the group. The music is very uplifting(until you listen to the lyrics of course) and catchy to listen to over and over.

Of Monsters and Men has quickly become one of my favorite new artists that I will listen to over and over again. It's one of the lucky albums which I can listen to completely through and not want to skip through half of the album to get to a good song.
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on June 12, 2016
I love Of Monsters and Men and I was super excited to purchase the vinyl of My Head Is An Animal. The reason this gets four instead of five stars is because the actual records came mislabeled. The first record, labeled side one and side two, that was supposed to have the first six songs actually had the the last five. I'm sure it's a packaging issue with the manufacturer and not the seller, but if you put the first record on and get confused because you don't hear Dirty Paws, it's probably because yours were mislabeled too.
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