Of Monsters and Men and the Ups and Downs of Existence

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How do you capture the sincerity of hope and loss?

You love Iceland and you might not even know it. And now you love it even more. Remember when you really tried to love Bjork and Sigur Rós, but they were just a little too “out there” at some points and you ended up only liking them? Well, we have a gift for you. It’s Of Monsters and Men’s first full-length album, My Head is an Animal.

It’s a gift because it is what you’ve been looking for to fill out the “Iceland” section of your vinyl collection. While the other Icelandic artists you know (Bjork and Sigur Rós… and if you know any more you probably just googled them… even if you’re from Iceland) mix in some pop melodies here and there, Of Monsters and Men are the embodiment of Icelandic indie-pop.

When we think of “pop music” we often think of shallow lyrics with cheap hooks. Of Monsters and Men’s latest album is catchy, but almost hauntingly so. The horns and guitars and keys are what we’ve come to expect from the indie genre, but the melodies are so engaging and fun (without being too smiley) that it’s hard not to attach the word “pop” to them.

But buried underneath the catchy sounds are lyrics that speak of hope in loss, sincerity, even when it causes pain, and adventures that make you feel like you felt when Will Hunting told Robin Williams he was “going to see about a girl.” The ups, boosted by horns and keyboards, and the drops, hollowed out by sweet, loose harmonies, of the music come with lyrics like “though the truth may vary, this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore” and “you love, love, love when you know I can’t love.”

There aren’t easy answers in the lyrics, but there is honesty and maybe if we’re generous, beauty in the painful honesty. The music carries these lyrics through the pain and understanding of that honesty in a way that seems to mirror the reality of existence in a way, what we might dub “cheap” pop music, just doesn’t.