My Head Is An Animal

Of Monsters And Men

Universal Republic, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Of Monsters And Men is yet another in the long line of current humorless electronic folk-rock acts, the kind you hear in every Starbucks ever, the kind made by very white people. It's definitely not an exciting sound; at this point, if you've heard the Lumineers or 2012-era Decembrists, or Mumford And Sons' first album, or Florence And The Machine, you've heard this album. 

That didn't stop "Little Talks" and "Mountain Sound" from receiving significant airplay, though, and while it may take listeners a few tries to tell them apart from similar-sounding songs, it's tough to deny their catchiness. Where OMAM differs is their Icelandic heritage, which sometimes lends a certain cold European feel to a type of music that isn't really supposed to be cold. It renders the band aloof on some songs, but when mood and melody comes together (as on "Little Talks"), the results can be interesting.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other tic that sets these guys apart is their alternating male/female vocal harmonies. This is something that they should explore further on songs that warrant it, since it's rare these days. Listeners also may notice a heavy lyrical emphasis on animals and fairy-tale storytelling, but the lyrics don't always make sense to a native English speaker. As this has been the case with most Scandinavian pop acts, this is not a liability (just look at those old Ace Of Base songs; those old Cheiron songwriters cared far more about how the words sounded than what they actually said). 

A cynic might wonder how these guys came out of nowhere in a market already saturated with this type of music, got signed to a major label, and were given shiny production treatment on several songs. To be fair, OMAM did win a battle of the bands in Iceland, so they have talent, but a song like "Six Weeks" just seems designed and produced to be a concert favorite with its stomping intro and power chords.

Nobody will argue that the band has a way with lovely melodies ("Slow And Steady," "Love Love Love," the Colin Meloy-soundalike "Your Bones"), but the dozen songs just run together after a while in a gray haze. The feeling of "I've heard this already" never really goes away. But those who love the bands mentioned in the first paragraph will latch on to this and get a lot out of it, so at least OMAM knows its audience, as does its record label. 

Perhaps most telling is that the band's second album, 2015's Beneath The Skin, is very different (on purpose) from the debut, favoring a big sound and a harder edge than the introspective, folksy strums and stomps of My Head Is An Animal. These guys have a great album in them yet, but their debut isn't it.

Rating: C-

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