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Posted on June 11th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Magdalene Taylor

Icelandic indie folk-pop giants Of Monsters and Men achieved immediate success on their debut album, My Head Is An Animal, with its lead single, “Little Talks,” hitting #1 in US Alternative songs and #20 in Billboard’s Hot 100. If you listen to the radio at all, or even merely go out in public, you’re probably familiar with the track; despite the band's “alternative” identity, the upbeat acoustic rhythm and harmonies of "Little Talks" made it perfectly family-friendly, adding to the repertoire of songs forced into your consciousness as you try to purchase bread and milk. At least one song off their second and latest album, Beneath the Skin, will be pushed on to you in the same way.

If it weren’t for their Icelandic accents, Of Monsters and Men would fall right into the same grinder of indistinguishable folk-pop with an alternative veneer that is ultimately a part of the mainstream music collection. Beneath the Skin is forgettable in this way - the same acoustic/harmony amalgam with vaguely catchy lyrics, this time with a slightly edgy bent - but is also guaranteed success. Pick any song off the album of any speed, rhythm, or quality and it has just as much chance as any other to be the song that dominates the airwaves; it really doesn’t matter which.

Opening track “Crystals” has already revealed itself to be the lead single, having been released months prior and fluctuating on a number of Billboard charts. It's true that the track is more texturally dense than the band's prior work, moving more away from folk and deeper into alternative rock, but it never lets go of its indie rock and pop sensibilities, carrying the essential duet style vocals and catchy, simple lyricism. The thing is, you could essentially say the same thing about any song off the album. Sure, there are a few slower songs, like the piano driven “Organs,” which features solo vocals, but the majority of songs are driven by an airy drum energy that is repeated in a variety of tracks, including “Empire,” “Slow Life,” and “Thousand Eyes.” If any of these songs, slow or not, were played enough times on the radio, they’d each find the same success.

That’s why Beneath the Skin doesn’t really matter. Maybe Of Monsters and Men have stepped up production a bit, and maybe they've created a more dynamic sound that differs from their first album in its darker quality, but it is ultimately a typical, boring folksy indie-pop album with broad superficial likability. You will hear it regardless of whether Beneath the Skin is any different from My Head Is An Animal. The tracks are indeed catchy, though anything might be considered catchy if you hear it enough. The bottom line is, get ready to get uncomfortably familiar with a song or two off Beneath the Skin. You can try to fight it, but even your local alternative station isn’t safe.

Track List:

  1. Crystals
  2. Human
  3. Hunger
  4. Wolves Without Teeth
  5. Empire
  6. Slow Life
  7. Organs
  8. Black Water
  9. Thousand Eyes
  10. I Of The Storm
  11. We Sink
  12. Backyard
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

54 / 100
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