On Sunday night, I lugged my gear through the terminal at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to board a sleepy evening flight back to the capital city for a week of work. During my haul back to Ottawa, I promptly noticed at a number of points – while the airport ferry coasted over sparkling waves, the sun set at 8:30 pm and I finally touched down at my toasty destination to a lightly dressed best friend chauffeur waiting – that it’s finally spring. Flying above the golden clouds plugged into my iPod, I began to realize that I can associate great albums and music obsessions with almost every season of my young adult life. A brisk fall spent with Ryan Adams’ Cardinology, the summer of Black Keys or The National in spring – all great albums have that one time of year that, because of their association, will always sound best.
I’m starting to think that the debut album My Head is An Animal from the folky Icelandic indie-rock collective Of Monsters and Men will now forever be play as an album that sounds like magic when played in spring. These past months, the new band’s heartwarming rustic jams have decorated the season for me just like the patio chairs are beginning to decorate the downtown stretches of Toronto and Ottawa – and I’ve answered any recent inquiries into “good new music” with the name of their first whack.
I came across this band and their sweet summery ballad “King and Lionheart” a little over a month ago, and immediately purchased their under-$10 album the next day. Before I knew it, news of the boy-girl duelling vocalists and their multi-instrumental choral company was sprouting up everywhere; CBC Radio was suggesting the debut as a must play, HMV had it perched on a shelf of must haves and the accompanying warm weather only affirmed this notion of impending success. The milky-voiced tales and singalong ballads – resembling Josh Rouse and an adolescent Feist/Dolores O’Riordan hybrid crooning Marcus Mumford’s music sheets – were meant to be played out an open window.
This fresh six-piece brood of musicians are just that – refreshing like the spring season and inconspicuously on the rise. You might have already heard their first single “Little Talks” riding the airwaves, and maybe you (like me) didn’t take a second listen; although the introductory gang of horns and uppity chorus hooks you a little, I wouldn’t say the single was enough to seal the deal – which makes thank my lucky stars I found the rest of the release. The real heartstring anthems and eclectic hillside hymns take up the other disc space in the form of the immediately captivating “Dirty Paws” which opens the album with a stinging acoustic pick and airy harmony – before slamming into a melodic stage-rattling blowout. Lady lead Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s velvety voice is blithe and instantly beloved from first listen; really holding her own amidst the booming clap, accordion and piano-filled bashes heard on “Mountain Sound” and “Six Weeks”, as well as the softer tracks – and my two favourites (they’re back-to-back as well – lovely) “Sloom” and “Lakehouse.” Both songs, sunny and light in their reminiscent disposition – are enchanting. After the adorable childlike storytelling of “Sloom” slows down, the album’s real golden track kicks in – a romantic daydreamer’s ballad called “Lakehouse.” It’s a huge and multidimensional hit; starting with quiet echoey guitar pangs and trading boy/girl vocals before swinging into the chorus’ marching band drum roll behind chants like “In the fall, we sleep all day” and a full-band harmonic holler to wrap up the track.
Pick up this album if you have every intention of strolling the streets in the newfound warmth or kicking up your heels after opening up your cottage for the season. Although spring is a short-lasting season, I predict this dreamy set list will be anything but short-lived.