Of Monsters And Men, 22nd July 2012 @ Oxford Art Factory

Jeffers Chew on 31 July 2012 in Gig Reviews


Of Monsters And Men

Folk music is a funny beast that’s a bit like a dish cooked up on MasterChef – sometimes they hit the mark and sometimes they don’t; and sometimes they just need a tweak of the ingredients to put out something amazing as evidenced by the support acts – The Falls and The Trouble with Templeton (with Thomas Calder performing solo).

Both gave perfectly fine performances but more emphasis should be placed on developing stronger melodies that capture the crowd. There’s a lot of potential here for these young talented Aussies, especially with The Falls reminding of the very popular Angus and Julia Stone.

The main headliners, Of Monsters And Men, were one of the buzz bands to see at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin. The six piece indie folk/indie pop band from Iceland are a little too big for the tiny stage at the Oxford Art Factory, so much so that half of the band is crammed next to a stage pillar.

Here in support of debut album My Head Is an Animal, it’s their first Australian tour. Fairy lights cover the set giving it the allure of an outdoor garden setting. In somewhat charming broken English, they introduce album opener ‘Dirty Paws’ which is about ‘animals at war’.

It’s a surprisingly fine talent to be able to paint imaginary and honesty into their lyrics as they sing, “I move slow and steady but I feel like a waterfall. There’s a bewitching quality to the performance with both singers wielding acoustic guitars and vocal interplay between male and female, much like The xx.

There are three things which make for a great folk/indie gig. Firstly, you have to get the crowd involved with shout-along choruses full of “La La La’s” and “HEY HEY!” Secondly, the songs have to be chock full of harmonies allowing the crowd to sway with beaming smiles. Thirdly, it should include wild hand clapping with foot-stomping (the cusp of boot scooting hoe down); and Of Monsters And Men managed to achieve all of the above in the first three numbers alone.

As evidenced by ‘Mountain Sound’ with the raucous singing along “Hold your horses now/ We sleep until the sun goes down”. This fuels direct comparisons to Arcade Fire and the open-hearted harmonies of The Magic Numbers.  Of Monsters And Men already achieved success in the US and have surprisingly charted higher than fellow Icelanders Björk and Sigur Rós.

Accordions and trumpets add to the musky racket and the punters go nuts at the opening chords of single, ‘Little Talks’. It’s a special moment as the song bursts into life in such an intimate setting.

For such an unassuming bunch they display bashful confidence for a young band, yet they never lose the ability to pull the heartstrings with songs like ‘Love Love Love’ and ‘Smooth’, containing lyrics “Love me my father” – providing the quieter highlights of the night.

They draw heavily on their debut album but include a new song ‘Beneath My Bed’ during the encore, which, if there were a “likeability meter” present, would have notched it up past 10.

There must be something in the Icelandic waters because yet another musical gem has come out of the country near the Arctic Circle. They’ve managed to charm the pants off a very (non-hipster) Sydney crowd tonight with their straight forward intention of making music that exudes happiness. The most heart-warming gig of the year!

-          Jeffers Chew


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