Of Monsters and Men’s ‘Beneath the Skin’ Review: Just Skin Deep
As soon as you hear the doubled toms and kick combination on opening track “Crystals,” you’ve pretty much heard the whole new album from the Icelandic indie-pop group Of Monsters and Men. Lead vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilsmatdóttir and Ragnar Pórhallsson combine to create some lovely melodies but in the end, the album is mostly stale and recycled tropes cropped from other indie rockers. Beneath the Skin (Universal Records/Republic) is an album intended to play upon the same base ingredients of yearning, expansive soundscapes and a broad dynamic range that made them popular in the first place.
Unlike many indie darlings, Of Monsters and Men embrace their arena-sized melodies and end up sounding more like Coldplay than the Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons influences that blanketed their first full album. The album particularly falters on the uninspired “Wolves Without Teeth” when the band deviates from their typical formula to produce what sounds like a more driven track from The xx’s last album scraps. “You hum like a hummingbird/put me in my sleep/you saved me from another world/sinking in my seat” serves as one of the less inspired lines in an already banal track.
The bottom line of the album is that if you’re already a fan of the band, great, you’ll be glad to have new music. For those of us who weren’t completely sold on the first album, don’t expect the second to be any more compelling. Basic melodies and a wide scope can only take you so far; when you begin reusing the same building blocks as the album before, its a strong sign that you should revamp your angle. While the group shows promise and is technically sound, the actual subject content is nothing more than disappointing and cliched.