New Music Review: Of Monsters and Men “My Head is an Animal”

Don’t believe whatcha heard.

Of Monsters and Men are a pop band. Labeling them as the latest, new fun folk band may be convenient – but it’s very misleading.

The band’s first record, “My Head Is An Animal,” may seem vague to the casual listener, as in, is this folk or is this just pop adult contemporary? It depends on how you define pop. Pop music appeals to a wide audience – hence “popular” music. Of Monsters and Men is clearly following the rise of folk music seeping into the mainstream, and finding the elements that work best.

If you go in thinking this is another Mumford & Sons or Lumineers-type group…well, don’t. Although you can hear the influences of groups like that, Of Monsters and Men is more in line with groups like The Fray, or a young, searching-for-their-sound Coldplay – but with acoustic guitars driving the music, instead of piano.

“My Head Is An Animal” is not really stretching into any unknown musical territory. This is a record you can sing along to. Every song has a catchy hook right up front. The swirling chorus and repetition in “Six Weeks” demands a crowd of people to yell “a-lo-oo-oo-oo-ne, I fight these animals,” as they stomp and clap in pure indie ecstasy. But that’s the thing – they’re not an indie band writing obscure, underground songs. They’re a mainstream band signed to Universal Music Group that appeals to these post-hipster senses – and that’s okay, just don’t call it indie.

At its best, this is a great album to give to a friend who doesn’t know who The Shins are but really likes Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” It’s an excellent introductory collection of songs for someone looking to branch out of the typical Billboard hits, but still wanting pop accessibility. At its worst, it isn’t even a bad record. Yes, everything on it is derivative of other ascended folk-pop groups, but that’s the point. Of Monsters and Men are meant to exist as the love child of the few groups who’ve crawled out of the inconspicuous college radio scene and into box store CD displays. It’s decent, catchy music. It won’t challenge new listeners, but it will satisfy them that they’re listening to a “cool indie band.”

Dusty Henry got his first bite of the local music scene at a Schoolyard Heroes show in Bremerton, Wash. and has been craving it ever since. He graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2012 with a degree in Journalism. He has written for CityArts Magazine, KEXP.ORG, SSG Music, Ballard News-Tribune, Queen Anne and Magnolia News, and more. He’s an avid record collector so if you see him digging through record bins (most often Sonic Boom in Ballard) feel free to say hello! Dusty also manages the local music blog PreAmp where he writes about smaller local acts and provides resources for bands as they continue to grow.