• Cherry Popper

A Tale of Monsters and Men

written by: on December 21, 2011

Of Monsters and Men is a six-piece folk band that has geographically floated atop the icy waters of the North Atlantic for a few years now. Its music shares the richness of crowd-pleasers such as Arcade Fire and has the playful simplicity of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but calling OMAM a sum of these parts doesn’t do it justice. Although the band is widely recognized in its home country of Iceland, OMAM’s beautiful output hasn’t achieved the amount of praise it deserves overseas, that is until “Little Talks” filtered through American airways and caught the attention of Seattle’s KEXP and Hypem’s top chart lists.

Since its beginning in 2007, OMAM has auspiciously grown from creating mainly acoustic music to a more saturated, wholesome product. With the addition of piano, accordion, bass and drums, the band has beefed up its instrumental breadth, but also simultaneously broadened its scope of listeners and propelled its music to international ears.

Last year, OMAM championed the title of Músíktilraunir, an award that’s equivalent to nationally recognized battles of the bands in Iceland, and they’ve been countlessly hailed as a must-see band at the annual Iceland Airways festival.

One of the most pleasant aspects to OMAM’s output is its use of alternating vocals between female and male singers. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” þórhallsson trade verses effortlessly. Together, they’re reminiscent of dueling vocals honed by Arcade Fire, yet OMAM’s lyrical content combines lighthearted topics rather than serious reflections about adulthood and remorse. In doing so, the Icelandic group colors its sound with positivity and innocence.

This year saw the release of OMAM’s debut LP My Head Is an Animal. The 11-song collection delves into imaginary and playful themes that the title suggests. Its subject matter includes pet dragonflies, gardening animals, scenic landscapes and wishful emotions that are  dressed in graceful chords and animated progressions. These are songs that’ll make any listener genuinely happy. The album’s single “Little Talks,” may have achieved the band an international following with its merry tambourines and accordion that keep the energy upbeat, but songs such as “Numb Bears” and “Six Weeks” still dish out positive vibes. Contrastingly, “Love Love Love,” “Yellow Light” and “Sloom” slow things down a bit and touch on feelings of heartbreak and distance.

If Sigur Rós and Björk have championed a majority of what we hear from Iceland’s music scene, OMAM is an up-and-coming contender. Even if OMAM doesn’t try to reach experimental heights as its Icelandic counterparts do, the group substitutes difference with consistency: My Head Is an Animal flows from start to finish and never compromises its authenticity for the sake of uniqueness.