OF MONSTERS AND MEN, Scala – Evening Standard, 13 July 2012

Of Monsters and Men actually consist of five men, two women and no monsters, and hold the surprising honour of being the Icelandic musicians with the highest charting album ever in America. My Head is an Animal, released almost a year ago in their homeland and coming out here next month, has surpassed even Björk’s efforts with its US chart position, reaching number six earlier this year.

That’s largely thanks to their rollicking single Little Talks, a jolly blast of brass and massed whooping that they saved almost til the end here. Dual singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar þórhallsson took turns with their lines like the married couple about whom they were singing – she pure and breathy, he emotional with a slight crack.

Though they sang of “a forest of talking trees” on Dirty Paws, they were significantly less otherworldly than the better known Icelandic musical exports. Their folk-rock sound (with three members taking turns on accordion no less) was big and melodic, resembling the stirring strum of Mumford & Sons or, with the frequent group shouting, a lightweight Arcade Fire.

Lakehouse started quietly, built to a rousing chorus, broke down for an audience singalong and then picked up the pace again. The dynamics of this song, and others such as From Finner and King and Lionheart, built excitement to fine effect. Crowd participation was mandatory and they should go down superbly at the summer festivals – they’re at Latitude this weekend for starters.

There wasn’t quite the same energy emanating from the band members as there was from the music. Songs like this leave little space for calm reserve. These men and women could have done with being a little more monstrous.