Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal (Cover Artwork)

Of Monsters and Men

My Head is an Animal (2012)

Universal Republic

In these self-loathing days of hipster attitude and vintage obsession, how bizarre and foreign can a band be without being a mainstream irritant? Once your head becomes an animal, only then will you know.

Icelandic indie-rockers Of Monsters and Men became staples on alternative rock radio with the help of their chilling yet cheerful single "Little Talks," and I became interested after hearing their second, "Mountain Sound." The seemingly nonsensical album cover sold me. Call me a sucker for the indie-rock market, but I gravitate towards the uncanny.

Lyrically, the opening track, "Dirty Paws," leads us right into our expectations ("Jumping up and down the floor / My head is an animal / And once there was an animal / It had a son that mowed the lawn"), and keeps our attention with its folk guitar intro and choir of passionate chants. Most of the album carries on in these terms, backed up with Nianna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Rangar Porhallsson's duets; their voices were meant for one another, as well as the orchestra of accordions, trumpets, pianos, and French horns.

It may seem like too much to bear, but the Monsters make it flow together so well, it's difficult to feel overwhelmed, as energetic as the animal might be.

The last half of the album has the animal tamed. Lyrically, it's darker and more focused ("Your Bones": "Troubled spirits on my chest where they laid to rest / The birds all left my tall friend as your body hit the sand... Said goodbye to you my friend as the fire spread / All that's left are your bones that will soon sink like stones"). "Love Love Love" is easily my favorite, featuring Nianna soloing in a sweet lullaby. The album's coda, "Yellow Light," is mostly instrumental, with a soothing and ongoing melody. Perhaps it's repetitive, but I'm normally too mesmerized to care.

Though they are categorized with equally as popular acts Imagine Dragons, Passion Pit, and Mumford & Sons, don't expect the same product. If not for enjoyment, My Head is an Animal can be a mere experience. How often does a band come from Iceland?