“We used to be birds but now we’re monsters.” That’s what Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir says. Up until 2010, Icelandic singer/songwriter Hilmarsdóttir was performing acoustic sets under the name Songbird. After bringing on extra musicians for touring, Hilmarsdóttir realized that the change in sound – partially brought on by singer Ragnar þórhallsson’s vocals in addition to her own-was the way to go.
The group skyrocketed to fame in their native home in Iceland due to their romping single “Little Talks”, which led them to take the winning title at a major Icelandic music festival the same year. What followed was a meteoric rise within the indie-pop community, especially on the American west coast.
Of Monsters and Men’s From Finner
The band’s EP, Into the Woods, was released at the end of December to the U.S. and Canada.While only four tracks long, each one is a perfect slice of dreamy, crystalline Nordic pop. Because the songs are so well-crafted, the EP feels much more satisfying. The first track “Little Talks” could be about anything from a bad breakup to death to insanity. No matter what the listener’s take on the meaning, the song is a curious juxtaposition – a song that sounds like a happy, pop anthem with heartbreaking lyrics. The back and forth of Hilmarsdóttir and þórhallsson’s vocals tell the story with a lingering sadness that is then erased with a “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and then brought back just as quickly.
The second track, “Six Weeks”, was inspired by the tale of an American frontiersman. Though it’s a battle cry about surviving in the wilderness, with lyrics like “Alone I fight these animals/Alone until I get home” it could be about survival on any level.
The third track “Love Love Love” is a poignant testament to love that must stay unrequited. Lines like “Those bright blue eyes that can only meet mine across the room/Filled with people that are less important than you” say with isolated brevity what other songwriters spend a whole song trying to communicate. The light tone of the song keeps it from getting too heavy – to pair lyrics like these with tragic piano would have simply been too much.
The last song on the album, “From Finner”, is the most fantastical. This track articulates the best of Icelandic pop – the melody stays coolly downplayed as Hilmarsdóttir’s voice leads the listener across the frozen oceanic landscape. The song, which tells of the scary yet thrilling ride in a house on the back of a whale, speaks of a journey across the ocean as they “Caught your eye”, could be a metaphor for Of Monsters and Men’s journey from their home to North America where they have caught the eyes (and ears) of a whole new fan base. “We are far from home, but we’re so happy” says it all. With a full-length LP scheduled to drop in the US early this year, hopefully the group can keep riding the behemoth of their success through the waters of 2012.
By: Nicole Banister