I’ll never forget the first time I heard Of Monsters and Men. I was 14 and on the cusp of discovering my love for Alternative Rock music. It was the age that I ditched the empty, Top 40 Hits nonsense and finally acquired an actual music taste. I dove deep into the excitement of finding new bands, plucking them from obscurity and bringing them to life inside the purple walls of my childhood bedroom. I was on vacation with my family in Colorado, listening to Pandora in the twin bed of our rented condo. “Sloom” trickled through my earbuds and I instantly tapped the screen to find out who sang this emotional, intriguing song. After scrawling “Of Monsters and Men” onto a yellow legal pad of paper (the only way I kept track of bands that I liked back then), I pulled out my dad’s laptop and searched their name on YouTube. An hour and eleven striking tracks later, I knew every single one of their songs. I had found my new favorite band.
“My Head is an Animal” may have been my first love affair with the Icelandic band, but “Beneath the Skin” made just as lovely of an impression on me. Although both albums are home to beautiful collections of songs, my top ten favorite tracks by Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) are mostly from their first studio album. Here they are in ascending order:
- “ Sloom”: The first song I discovered by OMAM is still one of my favorites, but there are nine that I like even better. From the moment I heard this soothing track, I fell in love with the singers’ voices and the whimsical vibe of the band; they’ve only gotten better from here.
- “ Your Bones” emits a gloomy, doomed vibe that most OMAM trakcs do not possess, whispering, “All that’s left are your bones/That will soon sink like stones”.
- “ From Finner” blends quiet vocals with loud, intense instrumentals, giving each their own shining moments before merging them together during the chorus. This song evokes several emotions simultaneously – melancholy, joy and desperation. The band captures the feeling of living on your own for the first time in your life perfectly.
- “Dirty Paws” is a classic OMAM song that every fan knows by heart. Their first album title is rooted in this song, and many animals are referenced, like many OMAM songs. Some references are strange, but they all fit together in their weird beauty. An extended instrumental graces the ending of this song as well, proving the band’s immense talent once again.
- “Yellow Light” is the ideal song to fall asleep to, wrapped in blankets while Ragnar Þórhallsson sings into your ear, “Just grab ahold of my hand/I will lead you through this wonderland”. The final three minutes of the song are nothing but a lullaby of instruments, making you drift through the sky among the clouds.
- “We Sink” is majestic from the moment it begins, speckled with “ooo”s and a soft piano and guitars. The lyric video adds to the stunning pain that is present in this song, with six people of different nationalities lip-synching the lyrics.
- “Six Weeks” is a song you want to stand up and dance to, but not in a conventional way. It is dark, deep and cold like the forest in its music video. The music, however, never pauses from its energized, quick pace that excites every listener. This track makes me want to jump around and scream my head off, letting everything escape me at once, shouting “Alone/I fight these animals”.
- “Organs” is an intense ballad that shows its power through simple instrumentals and a stunning vocal. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice is shown off in this solo, emphasizing her subtleties and cracks like we’ve never heard before. During their concert, this performance stole the show; Nanna stood at a tall microphone with a single spotlight coating her in yellow. All eyes were on her and all ears were caressed by her enchanting voice. It is a performance I will always remember.
- “Lakehouse” consists of everything that makes OMAM the amazing band that they are – intimacy, roaring instrumentals, peculiar lyrics, and gorgeous vocals. The chorus is catchy and haunting simultaneously – a rare combination. The lyric video adds to the sense of wonder that this song emits.
- Assuming that I can predict the future, “Slow and Steady” will always be my favorite OMAM song. It is too rare of a gem to outshine, in my opinion. The best way that I can describe how this song makes me feel is by quoting its title lyric, “I move slow and steady/But I feel like a waterfall”. Something about the combination of instruments, the dreamy vocals and the sad lyrics – “I spend my nights dancing with my own shadow/And it holds me/And it never lets me go” – make this song achingly beautiful. I’ll always be drawn in by its lonely seduction. “Slow and Steady” plays on like the mesmerizing flow of a waterfall, but unlike a waterfall, sadly, the flow ends.
After years of searching for a tour stop nearby and being discouraged as I saw lists of coastal towns and cities abroad, I finally saw Of Monsters of Men in 2015. Inside the church pews of the Ryman Auditorium as a freshman in college, I saw all of my favorite songs from my freshman year of high school performed live. It’s fitting that the Ryman is made up of pews, because this performance was almost a spiritual experience for me. I was in the very last row, but I didn’t care. Every note sung was more stunning than I had imagined, and my admiration for this group of dreamers grew immensely. I vividly remember turning to my friend during “Dirty Paws” and shouting above the music, “this makes me want to skip through fields with my eyes closed and wind blowing through my hair.” I felt this desire when I heard them for the first time in that twin bed in Colorado, I felt it when I saw them live in Nashville, and I’m still overcome with this desire each time I listen to Of Monsters and Men, no matter where I am.