Lollapalooza 2012: Of Monsters & Men / by Doyle Armbrust

The Icelandic quotient of my LP collection is often reserved primarily for the shortest, bleakest, dark-lord-take-me-now days of the Chicago winter. Often heavy on the string arrangements and disolate, atmospheric textures, the country has been steadily exporting arresting albums from artists like Ólafur Arnalds and Anna Thorvaldsdottir...and that other group performinging today. Cigar something? Bringing us the cheerier side of North Atlantic patchouli-pop for an early-evening set was Reykjavík's Of Monsters & Men.

"Dirty Paws" led things off with lines like "Her dirty paws and furry coat / She ran down the forest slope" setting the tone for the THC-embracing vibe. Singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir's unalloyed voice appealingly, though frequently unintelligibly, sounds as if it is being squeezed out in little spurts from underneath her slouched brim. Drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson conducted us through the "La, la la la's" of "From Finner," one of My Head Is An Animal's (2012) least compositionally creative, but evidently most crowd-friendly, tracks. A majority of the Of Monsters & Men oeuvre seem to contain jubilant sing-alongs, not the least of which is "Mountain Sound," which proved a bit too involved for the thousands jamming Google Play stage. This sounds perilously close to being picked up for the next Walt Disney Co. animated feature. In fact, the enormous inflatable birthday cake that bounced around the sea of uplifted arms pretty much sums it up.

The admittedly limited sonic variety found on My Head Is An Animal bled into a uniform slurry here, with each number sounding near-indistinguishable from its predecessor. The mix on stage was a wash, so I'll chalk some percentage of that up to the overworked sound tent. Hit single "Little Talks" immediately brings to mind the over-exposed Edward Sharpe responsorial "Home," and as it turns out is equally as saccharine. One thing is certain: Lolla's "ooh/la/wooow" quota has been successfully surpassed.

- Doyle Armbrust

published in the Time Out Chicago Audio File Blog on August 6th, 2012