Of Monsters and Men is a six-piece band from Iceland that was being dubbed the ‘New Arcade Fire’ by Rolling Stone magazine in the United States last autumn. But first let’s rewind the clock a little bit.
Formed in 2010, the band has a good-natured indie-folk vibe with singers Ragnar (Raggi) þórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir at the helm, rousing the audience to shout ‘Hey!’ at appropriate places during the louder parts of some of the songs, like ‘Dirty Paws’ and ‘Little Tracks’ (trust me, you will, especially if you make it to one of the live shows – maybe at Bitterzoet in Amsterdam on 23 April, although much of the tour is already sold out).
The debut album My Head Is an Animal will be released in the US and Canada on 3 April (and everywhere else soon after). It has been available in Iceland since 2011, where the first single released ‘Little Tracks’ was a chart topper for weeks. And I can guarantee that this song will stay in your head, probably for as many weeks as it was at the top of the charts! The beautiful video for this – the catchiest of catchy songs – was created by We Were Monkeys, who conjoured up a world where ‘five sky-sailors discover a crystal meteor containing a lost mythical female creature’. Experience this strange new world for yourselves here:
The band first gained a following in Iceland in 2010 after winning the nationwide Músiktilraunir (battle-of-the-bands) competition. The story of OMAM goes something like this – Nanna was looking to rally some like-minded folk (no pun intended) to expand her solo act (Songbird) and along came Raggi and the rest of the guys. The sound they have now all perfected is fun and exhilarating and grows far beyond the acoustic-folk beginnings of the group and into something much grander. The lead vocals are shared by Nanna and Raggi, with harmonising choruses building to anthemic crescendos.
The band has certainly caught the attention of fans and press at the last two editions of Iceland Airwaves, so much so that it seems they already cracked the hard-to-crack US music market before even setting foot on American soil (a visual summary which aims to summarise the band’s rapid success can be seen here). Not mentioned in that clip is the impact that the Seattle radio station KEXP had on creating a buzz for Of Monsters and Men stateside. KEXP has championed the band for some time now, and you can read more about that here and here, and you can see the band performing live in Reyjkavik, filmed by KEXP for Iceland Airwaves (Oct 2011), here:
The full album is currently streaming on 3Voor12 luisterpaal and we’d love to hear which one of these songs is your earworm during April – maybe you can tell us at the Amsterdam show, as I’m guessing there will be a big Nordic Vibes posse at that gig. If you were lucky enough to get ticket for the sold-out-show, come say hello!
My Head Is An Animal. Release 3 april 2012:
Single Little Talks: