I kind of have a thing for Europe. Specifically Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. The bands and musicians that come from that area seem to have a greater appreciation for music (so do the fans) as well as a more nuanced, yet fully drawn-out creative process. Metal, indie pop, classical pop/rock, electronica; it is also has a lot of variety. Considering I have covered artists from Denmark (Indians), Finland (Turisas) and Sweden (Shout Out Louds), it should come as no surprise that the next country is the region’s smallest, yet arguably the most musically rich: Iceland.
Home to Bjork, Sigur Ros, Amiina, Jonsi, among countless others, and the final place of residence for chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, Iceland – or more specifically Icelandic music – is quickly making a name for itself. One band that is most definitely helping that reputation is Of Monsters and Men. This five-piece indie pop/folk group, which began as an expansion of lead singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir’ solo project Songbird, have quickly and quietly soared through the music charts. The fact that they were playing a sold-out show in the 2700 seat Orpheum Theatre, less than four years after they formed is a testament to their sheer talent and ability.
Hilmarsdottir gave one of the most natural and effortless performances I have seen in recent times. And she’s only 24!. It must that Scandinavian awesomeness that was mentioned earlier. On top of that, the audience was on their feet the very first song and didn’t sit down for the next hour and half. Clearly, Of Monsters and Men is a volcanic eruption waiting to happen (though, hopefully, with less the damage caused by Eyjafjallajökull). Except that they don’t spew lava, they spew music. And confetti. Yes, at one point during their show two canons sprayed the dazzled and screaming with confetti – soaring down from on high. That, coupled with the spectacular backdrop and flashy light show, made for one of the most well-rounded and stunning shows in recent memory.
For me however, the real star of the show was touring member Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir – who rocked out on accordion, piano, trumpet and floor tom. Sometimes all in one song! Not only do not many indie folk bands have a trumpet and/or accordion player, I doubt that they would be lucky enough to find one as wickedly awesome as Gunnarsdottir. There have been pleas from fans to make her an official member, but so far, no word from the band on whether that will indeed become the case. The image and sounds that were created when two women – Hilmarsdottir and Gunnarsdottir – were simultaneously pounding on the same floor tom, is hard to articulate because of its sheer beauty – aesthetically, creatively, physically, and emotionally.
Every band that I have heard come out of Scandinavia has been utterly awesome. Also quite diverse. Of Monsters and Men is no exception. They are young, they are talented, they are seasoned performers despite their youth as a live group. They are monsters of their craft, reducing wannabe popstars to mice scrounging for musical scraps on the floor of a smoky volcano. They are here to stay – hopefully for a really long time.
Their debut EP – My Head is An Animal – was released in North America on April 20, 2012.
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Bjork, The Hives, The Joy Formidable