We’ve (almost) reached the end of this seven-week series on Nordic pop, and this time we land in Iceland. It’s interesting, this: the country’s physically isolated from most of the world, even its Nordic neighbors (although you can argue Greenland is Denmark, and they’re closer there). That’s meant the country’s had a chance to evolve its culture on its own terms. Just think of Björk, who we wrote about a few weeks back. But also, her musical journey’s involved a lot of genres: in recent decades the country’s also seen its fair share of outside influences, and yet its music is, in a way, distinctly Icelandic.
“Crystals”, the first single from Of Monsters and Men’s new record Beneath the Skin, suggests a slightly darker direction, what with the brooding intro and the less whimsical sound. But, well, wrong. Beneath the Skin is essentially a retread of their debut, My Head is an Animal, down to the animal references and the song structures and the Narnia-esque tricks the Icelandic folk-pop band pull off. Now, this isn’t a problem in itself, but I can’t help but feel disappointed. Everything sounds the same. Every song sounds the same. I was already six tracks in and it felt like four. And to think they promised this record would do darker. Well, there are hints of that, but it’s so minute you would not even remember that being said. That said, you might like this. This being a retread means the charming qualities of the band shine through. But as a guy who’s not fond of unimaginative repeats, I certainly don’t like it. At least not as an album. [NB] | 2/5
“Mountain Sound” by Of Monsters and Men | Finally, a band that’s not exactly pop rock, although it perfectly dovetails with my mindset, and Drea’s, too. We’re all late to Of Monsters and Men – their debut My Head is an Animal was released in Iceland last year, but they only really exploded this year thanks to “Little Talks”. I was elsewhere when the Brits picked them up, leading to the Americans picking them up (which rarely happens), and now, they’re touring the world, and their album is still nowhere to be found in Manila. Next year they’re at the Laneway Festival’s Singapore date, which Drea regrets because she doesn’t have the money. (I have the same regret, because Kimbra will be there. Her live shows are, you know, electric, baby.) So maybe in 2014? Of Monsters and Men may not be there, but whatever. (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)