Of Monsters and Men - 'Beneath the Skin'
Its taken me far too long to write about the 2nd album by Of Monsters and Men, a sudden bout of Bloggers Block struck me on this and another review I was writing - which I’ve now abandoned because I just don’t like the album enough to warrant we include it. Originally, when we started, the idea on review writing was to try and write a concise few words about each new Nordic album we liked, point people in the direction of where to find it, and let them makes their own minds up. So the fact that I’ve got myself in complete confusion on what to say shows that I’ve lost a grip on what we're here to do.
I first came across Of Monsters and Men a few years back, well before their debut album was released, when I came across an informally produced video online of them performing ‘Little Talks’ acoustically. It instantly charmed me, and I previously always advocated that ‘Of Monsters…’ are a great introduction to those who are new to Icelandic and Nordic music. But things have moved quickly forward for the band, ‘My Head is an Animal’ was a platinum selling album in a number of countries, major music festival appearances followed and they’ve won a number of music awards too.
This probably makes their second album fairly challenging, how to retain the charming indie folk sound, whilst presenting songs for a global stage. And after 2 weeks of listening to ‘Beneath the Skin’, I have to admit they don’t always achieve both. But what we’re still left with is a likeable if slightly two dimensional album, which will still sell in lorry loads.
We open with pre-album release single ‘Crystals’, which I completely failed to engage with when I first heard it as a single, but have grown to like more alongside the rest of the album, but I have more of an instant connection to both ‘Human’ and ‘Hunger’. In particular ‘Hunger’ retains some of that character that originally charmed me, with its simple acoustic opening, and it’s melancholy pleading feel to it. ‘Organs’ is stripped back and personal, and works really well, whilst ‘Thousand Eyes’ is undoubtedly my favourite on the album. It broods, simmers and finally explodes in a cacophony of sound, as ‘Of Monsters….’ break free from their middle ground and give us some contrasts, and a hint of darkness too.
Whilst my personal taste would probably now send me in a different direction to ‘Of Monsters and Men’, this is still an album with some character, style and good songs, especially in the latter half of the album. We should welcome their huge popularity, they are after all introducing vast numbers of music lovers to .Icelandic music for the first time, and we should be ever grateful for this. I just hope their 3rd album is slightly less ‘safe’ and manages to retain the essence of indie folk which made me like them in the first place.
Nordic Music Review 7/10