It's a case of quality over quantity when it comes to Iceland bands. There aren't many artists who have achieved success from the barren, volcanic and sparsely populated island, but those that have are masters of their craft.
Of Monsters & Men make their international debut, much like fellow Icelandic stars Sigur Ros and Bjork, with a near perfect, finely tuned record. It's not so much a breath of fresh air as opening the window to gale force winds. The band share a similar sound to Mumford & Sons, but with a finer sense of storytelling, opting not to linger too long on tales of love and loss, instead focusing on travellers tales and fantastic stories of wars between forest animals and strange ocean-faring folk.
The six-piece boasts two supremely talented singers, whose talents would most likely be wasted were they crooning love stories to each other. The angelic vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir blend perfect with the rural twang of Ragnar Þórhallsson, and the balance between the two is handled perfectly.
The album's single 'Little Talks' is a surprise hit of 2012 already, sitting awkwardly on radio playlists among club anthems and urban street vibes with its trumpet-led chorus and sea-shanty chorus. Album opener 'Dirty Paws' is a spine tingling tale of a ruthless Queen bee determined to take the birds from the sky, who are forced to seek help from woodland animals in the battle - all narrated by a dragonfly, of course.
'From Finner' is a more straightforward tale of homesickness after travelling overseas, while 'Six Weeks' is a rousing, singalong with each member of the band lending their vocals. The album standout however, is the epic 'Lakehouse', which opens with a simple acoustic guitar and seems to close with the sounds of every norse god singing together in perfect harmony.
The album could be perhaps be criticised as being a little twee, too wrapped up in fairytales and storytelling to have any real emotional impact on the hardened listener. But My Head Is An Animal isn't an album to understand and emphasise with, it's a record to escape into. The band pull on the heartstrings with their goodnatured spirit, sublime sounds and stirring songs, and like every great tale, the connection comes from wanting to reach the end of the journey with the storyteller. One of 2012's most unique and spectacular albums.