Take the sun and psychedelics out of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, but keep the joyfulness and the group harmonics that build the foundation of the nostalgic folk, and what is left is Iceland’s own Of Monsters and Men. Its debut album, “My Head Is An Animal,” was released in the United States Tuesday to long-awaited acclaim sure to draw new fans.
The album begins with a slow, relaxing song, “Dirty Paws” and introduces the listener to the combined vocals that define the band, with increasingly emotional rhythms. The album picks up considerably and begins to frolic with the second song, “King and Lionheart,” showcasing the vocals leading the music as opposed to the other way around. It gives a dynamic that is a treasure in today’s bass-driven mainstream.
The third song, “Mountain Sound,” is the album’s first classic track, transporting listeners into a captivating state with its delightful sound. The next song takes a page out of The xx’s vocal-heavy music, and slows down the happy feelings with “Slow and Steady.”
The album also features a dancing-required single, “Little Talks.” The get-up-and-dance-around-your-room-or-backyard-or-office-cubicle song received well-deserved airplay in the U.S. It is exponentially too effervescent to not be celebrated with some embarrassing attempts at the running man or the sprinkler. Choosing to use horns adds to the runaway independent spirit of this song, making it an obvious crowd favorite.
Not to be overshadowed by having to follow the happiest song on earth, “Six Weeks” is the takeaway track of the album. It’s also the longest, clocking in at 5:34. At exactly halfway through the record, it is the anthemic track that really makes the album shine. It waters down the usage of the male-female harmonics that take control of the first half of the album and focuses on the group dynamic. It’s an earnest song with its kick drum kicking through the hearts of the band’s fans. Resonating through the rest of the album is this one track with its almighty intensity, certainly not to be taken lightly on any accounts.
The second half of the album features similar themes to the first half, including lamentably emotional tracks such as the mournful “Love Love Love.” Another mournful song, “Sloom,” stays true to the song’s title of gloom and sadness — the emotions are palpable in the song.
The second half, and why the album is more two halves than a whole, focuses less on combining vocals and lets individual voices carry songs. This represents a commendable effort by the band to break out of the mold of “family-esque” songs, something seen in 1960s and 1970s bands also in today’s music such as the previously mentioned Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. The album closes out with the uplifting and spirited “Numb Bears,” bringing back the horns heard in “Little Talks” to end the album on a joyous note.
“My Head Is An Animal” is out now on Universal Republic, and while no dates are scheduled for San Diego currently, Of Monsters and Men will perform at Sasquatch Music Festival and KROQ (Los Angeles) Weenie Roast in May.