It is absolutely no surprise that Crystals, the opening track from Of Monsters & Men‘s new album Beneath The Skin, topped one of the Billboard charts in the States, but it’s certainly not because of past comparisons to Mumford & Sons. While the erstwhile banjo twangers thought going a bit U2 was the way forward, the Icelandic band decide to keep their folk-pop foundation and meld it with perfectly-honed, stadium-sized choruses.
That’s what makes the majority of this record enjoyable, even amid all the twee and fanciful lyrics (Wolves Without Teeth, anyone?). It also helps that they have a charismatic lead vocalist in Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, who lifts even the more pedestrian moments like Empire beyond genre purgatory.
The course of each song is largely predictable, but eschewing the pop in folk-pop pays off brilliantly on Organs and the stripped-back revelation that is Backyard (which feels like The xx taking on Sia‘s Breathe Me, if one can imagine such a thing). That kind of restraint offers the right kind of balance for an album that seems to tire itself out in its second half, but there’s still a lot of good to acknowledge here. It may not be a perfect or original record, but Beneath The Skin certainly does a good job of being memorable, even if it’s ultimately short-term.
Beneath The Skin by Of Monsters & Men can be ordered here.