Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men has a way of taking dark subjects and presenting them in the vein of something so breathtaking that it is impossible to look away. Their music compels you to listen and to take in their meaning without realizing at first what it is you are singing along to.
When “Little Talks” crossed 1 billion streams on Spotify, cementing Of Monsters and Men as 2011’s breakout band, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing them. They became the song you hummed to yourself walking down the streets, singing as you cleaned or did laundry, or really did anything. But what wasn’t readily apparent as the song grew in popularity was that “Little Talks” was really about death. It was about loss and the way love lingers even after it’s gone.
So it isn’t surprising that their newest single “Visitor” is about loneliness, isolation, and estrangement. It’s also not surprising that “Visitor” is compulsively listenable, energetic, and sensual. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice has such complexity to it, standing apart from almost any other female vocalist, which is fitting because Of Monsters and Men have always had a very particular sound. They are usually classified as indie, or alternative, or something along those lines but the truth is, they don’t really sound like anything in either of those categories. I remember them appearing around the same time as Imagine Dragons, but I would never compare the two.
The video for “Visitor,” directed by Thora Hilmars, is equally beautiful and tragic. Shots of Of Monsters and Men’s last live show right before the pandemic hit are interspersed with naturalistic shots of Iceland as an old man walks alone toward a pinkish sunrise. He dances at the concert, also alone but making eye contact with the band, looking at home among the music. Of Monsters and Men makes beautiful music that you can either cry to or dance to. Or maybe both at the same time.