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Of Monsters and Men Talks New Album 'Beneath the Skin'

06/25/2015
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(Radio.com) While it's not all fun and games, Of Monsters & Men's first album My Head Is An Animal is led by some of the happiest and luckiest of happy-go-lucky singles. "Little Talks" and "Mountain Sound" came to typify the Icelandic indie folk act's presentation: Sunny, poppy, radio-friendly tunes with majestic horns, joyous melodies and the shouted "hey!" that bands of their ilk loved back in 2012 and 2013.

It's what makes the band's followup, the newly released Beneath the Skin, such a disarming record on first listen. There are no "Little Talks" on the record; no "Mountain Sound."

Instead, think of the quintet's sophomore release literally in terms of its title. Beneath the Skin suggests, perhaps, a record more than skin deep, one that submerges below the surface of what the band explored on previous records, a more personal affair, inward rather than outward.

"Our first album was very carefree and innocent in a way," Þórhallsson, who performs the male lead vocals and primarily acoustic guitar for the band, tells Radio.com. "We were all good friends but we were still kind of figuring each other out whilst making the album. I think we found common ground in the adventure and joy of creating something together and I think that shaped the album quite a lot.

"This time around we're in a different situation. We've been together for five years now and gone through a lot together, so I think we felt more comfortable going a bit more personal on this one. I think it's a really natural development from our first album, especially if you've ever seen us play live."

There's a mentality on My Head Is An Animal of exploration, like an urge to get out of one's chair and see the world. With Beneath the Skin, the band zeroed in on their homeland, where Þórhallsson says they wrote most of the material. Of course, the personal aspect comes into play, too--from the brooding "Hunger," on which Þórhallsson and co-lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir repeat, solemnly, "I'm drowning" over ebbing and flowing tides of instrumentation, to the lead single "Crystals." Hilmarsdóttir sings that she'll "forgive what is within/ Because I'm in this house/ I'm in this home/ All my time," suggesting a somber, lonely, homebody lifestyle.

"I think lyrically this album is a whole other story," Þórhallsson says. "From our point of view we're being way more frank and forward on this one. There are still references to nature and stuff like that but we're using it differently now, it's more metaphorically speaking. Sonically we tried out a lot of new things, a lot of new instruments. It was also about thinking about the songs in a different way than before. We have a distinct dynamic in the group and it is very natural for us to do certain things like dramatic swells and build-ups."

Not that the new songs are the contrarians to the first album; after all, "Little Talks" is about a widow whose husband has passed away and the conversation between the "two" after the loss. But masking drearier lyrics with upbeat melodies, harmonies and instrumentation can make for a goldmine on radio. Read more here.

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Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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