Indie Rock, 2015
As a second album, Of Monsters and Men’s Beneath the Skin initially sounds like a retread of My Head Is an Animal, so I was quite ambivalent about it. The more I listen to the album, however, the more I find reasons to consider it a better, tighter album than their debut effort.
Just like with the first album, I don’t know exactly how to describe the kind of music one will find here. It’s a mix of all kinds of things – a messy kind of musical mulligan stew that nonetheless is so beautiful on the ears. Lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir sounds perfect – she can go from deranged to fey and back again with ease, and Raggi Þórhallsson provides male vocals that complement hers nicely.
Hence, Backyard is haunting and vulnerable, but unlike, say, many Radiohead-wannabe dirge out there, this one evokes chills and goosebumps rather than make me look at the clock. Human is both an uptempo and downbeat song, with the fragile qualities of the vocals contrasting nicely with the robust melody.
Winter Sound is a more straightforward rock-your-balls-out song, but the eccentric enunciation and the way the instruments all come together make this one a charming kind of melodrama. Crystals is similar – it is a rock-out tune that seems to grow wings and soar, like any respectable feel-good summer song would.
I of the Storm is one of my favorite songs here. Lush, larger than life, and just all around awesome, this one starts out with a marching band drum rhythm that builds up slowly and magnificently into an epic anthem that has me floored, even if I have no idea half the time what these people are singing about.
Beneath the Skin is in many ways an album full of surprises. One moment, these people sound like they are making an English version of a theme song to some Chinese kungfu movie. Then they are cooing and breathing in haunting ballads. And then they are rocking out hard, or making cheesy dance tunes that Eurovision would be proud of. Discordant as all this may seem on paper, the album is actually a very cohesive collection of songs, each of which stands out in its own way, and none of them sounding like obvious filler. This one really gets under my skin, and I won’t have it any other way.