Of Monsters & Men "Beneath The Skin"

Of Monsters and Men’s music reflects its country’s meme – mysterious creatures lurk among flora and fauna that seems other-worldly. Folklore suggests faeries live among the active volcanos and glaciers that illustrate Iceland’s unique physicality. Such a place sparks the imagination which may account for the musical generosity of its sparse population. This year Kaleo joined a growing list of Icelandic artist who are making an impact outside of their country, joining Asgeir, Sigur Ros, and Bjork, to name a few.

Beneath the Skin, the second album from OMAM, runs a little deeper and darker than its predecessor. Emotional discord is examined through metaphor, and dynamic melodies wrap electric instrumentation around folk structures. As on their debut Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Þorhallsson are the main writers and trade off on lead vocals, often in mid-song. In interviews the pair said the album took  form during months of touring behind the band’s debut, and captures the growing bond between the members. However, the lyrics suggest a growing disconnection and melancholy. Often the lyrics are oblique, transposing nature and animal instinct on human behavior. Drowning and eating or being eaten alive represents some personal malaise.

Beneath the Skin opens hopefully enough with the rapturously delirious “Chrystal” with its tribal drumming call to arms. “Human” and “Hunger” examine human physicality in an effort to understand psychic pain. “Organs” is a moody post-mortem dissection of a relationship with Hilmarsdottir playing both apologist and coroner. “So I take off my face/because it reminds me of how it all went wrong/ and pull out my tongue/because if reminds me of how it all went wrong” she sings in a resigned tone. Impassioned energy is injected into the vein of self-recrimination of “Black Water.”  And so the album continues, with high seas that threaten to sink the ship, only to give way to clear days and placid waters.

Producer Rich Costey captains the project but he’s wise in allowing his crew of artists to determine the direction. 

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)