Released: June 2015
Icelandic five-piece Of Monsters and Men have returned with their second album, Beneath The Skin (released on June 8). The band have been referred to as the new Arcade Fire by Rolling Stone Magazine, but after the soaring success of their first album, can the follow-up live up to the hype?
The second album for any band is a tricky thing and unfortunately the magic of 2011’s My Animal Head doesn’t quite extend to the band’s latest album. For steadfast fans of the indie-folk quintet, there’s plenty of the same musical formula to enjoy, but it’s unlikely to win the band any new followers.
Of Monsters and Men remind me of a more chilled out, slightly depressed Crystal Fighters, minus the ukelele. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson’s vocals blend well with the electro pop feel that the band are creating, yet it’s not one of those albums to listen to before a night out. On the contrary, this is an album to listen to at the end of a solemn night (maybe when you’ve lose the pub quiz and want to wallow in a little self-pity).
The ever-droning bass, the use of minor keys, the echoing whimsy that’s layered and then topped up with vocals that dip in and out of the music; it all combines to evoke a feeling of moodiness that gives the album a solemn flavour. When the intermittent piano interludes surface, it’s a breath of fresh air, breaking up the electro and giving a little more personality to the collection of songs.
With deeper lyrics and staccato vocals mimicking the human heartbeat, second track, Human, is the highlight of the album. It is also one of the most upbeat songs out of the 13 on offer, alongside opener Crystals, which was the first single to be taken from the album. It’s with these tracks that the band excel.
If you like your indie-folk with a heavy dose of electro-pop, a hint of moodiness and a cathartic edge, Beneath The Skin will deliver everything you’re after. It doesn’t capture the same charm as the band’s first album, but it’s still a lot better than many of the albums populating the mainstream music chart at present.