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Maybe some of us cheated a little bit on our Top 10 lists for 2011. A handful of KEXP DJs and staff just couldn't help including Of Monsters and Men's debut album, My Head Is an Animal, even though it's not due out in the U.S. until next year. But you can hardly blame us: A year ago, we tried to warn everyone that, with its catchy melodies, sing-along choruses, rich orchestration and heartfelt lyrics, the young group would blow up soon enough. We've been waiting for Of Monsters and Men's debut ever since.
This past October, the band performed during our first-ever international broadcast from the Iceland Airwaves festival, and was a clear standout among the 15 acts we hosted — no small feat, considering the wealth of amazing talent in that country. Fellow Icelanders were already convinced, as they packed the library at the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik and queued up around the block to get in. Even our DJ, Kevin Cole, had trouble getting back to the mic in time to introduce the band. During the atmospheric build in the set opener "Dirty Paws," the anticipation was palpable; soon enough, the whole crowd joined in on the "la la la" parts, becoming an extension of the group for the rest of the set.
Of Monsters and Men's appeal is no great secret. Its members combine the anthemic exuberance and homespun theatricality of bands like Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros. Their style, which also shares a strong male/female dynamic, is typically Icelandic: They combine earnestness and aptitude, which makes for irony-free, feel-good music that's nearly impossible to resist. Just listen to the songs that follow, particularly "Lakehouse" and "Little Talks," and we guarantee you'll be hooked.
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