Of Monsters and Men - The Observatory - 8/8/12
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They don't look like rock stars and with their brand of music, yet somehow, Of Monsters and Men have used their Icelandic charm to win over the hearts and minds of music listeners across the globe. Although technically their debut album, My Head Is an Animal, was released last September in their native land, 2012 has been a landmark year for the sextet. Sandwiched between two of the biggest festivals ( Lollapalooza and Outside Lands), the band played their last proper headlining show (Outside Lands small shows withstanding) in the States for the foreseeable future.
Even with a massive radio hit, it was still surprising to see The Observatory completely sold out. Outside of a few exceptions, indie folk music doesn't catch on with the masses. But yet here we were last night, in a room where fans could barely move, yet were enthusiastically singing along in unison to every tune.
The dueling vocals of Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (try pronouncing those names) helped set the tone for both the band and fans. Having two main singers is a tough task to manage; yet it's difficult to imagine what the band would sound like without this setup. Beginning with "Dirty Paws" and ending with "Yellow Light," the band's 13 song, 75-minute set was fun and loose, yet musically was extremely tight.
Raggi and Nanna kept things loose, encouraging fans to sing and clap along with them. Ambitiously, Nanna attempted to teach fans how to say love in Icelandic before "Love Love Love," before Raggi told the audience that it also means hate in their native tongue. Fans just shrugged it off and laughed, which goes to show when a band is doing well, they can say or do anything within reason and people will go along with it.
Lost in all the hoopla surrounding the band is that they're pretty talented musicians. Almost every member of the group can play more than one instrument, which helps fill out the sound and adds another dimension to the songs. Whether it's the addition of a trumpet, an accordian or an extra keyboard, these accouterments play an important role in filling out a song. These added elements give the songs a pop sensibility and make the songs more interesting live than you would have noticed on the record. Subtlety in this case is the group's best friend.
Naturally, their radio hit "Little Talks" received the biggest ovation, but other songs like the cheery indie pop of "Mountain Sounds" and "King And Lionheart" proved that there's more to the band than just their big hit.
Having only one album to their name, Of Monsters and Men have caught on in a major way. When fans are singing the words to nearly every song, you know you're doing something right. If the band can keep writing crisp, yet relatable songs that combine indie folk with indie pop, then this could be the start of something big.
Critical Bias: This show had the warmth of watching a band perform in your living room with 900 of your closet friends. This could be a show people remember in a few years for seeing this band while on the brink
Random Notebook Dump: You can easily tell the status of a band by looking at their merch. If it's reasonably priced, you better buy some now before they jack up the prices.
Slow and Steady
Close to Me (The Cure cover)
Love Love Love
King and Lionheart
Beneath My Bed