This is one of Anie’s album reviews. I’ve limited myself to one sentence per song.
Who Should Buy This: If you like or value art in any medium, you should buy this.
Album: Beneath the Skin
Artist: Of Monsters and Men
Genre: alternative, folk, pop
Music Rating: 9/10
Lyrics Rating: 8/10
Sounds Like: Florence + The Machine, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons
One Sentence Summary: In this album, alternative-folk music explores life and what it means to be human, through nature and the many complexities and juxtapositions found therein.
Best thing About this Album: The pure artistry with which music and lyrics are woven together and presented for consumption is inspiring to witness and a privilege to experience.
One thing I wish was different: Some of this album is so artistically abstract, that it is difficult at times to relate or assimilate without conscious effort. It is every bit worth the effort, but if this album has one downfall, it is that not every song is instinctive or subconscious in its connectivity. (Although, even that could be argued.)
Website: Of Monsters and Men
This is a playlist of all of the songs from the album that will automatically play through the whole album. To skip to a particular song, click on the menu icon in the upper left-hand corner.
A marching beat throws us immediately into the heart of the action of an expansive musical resonance that leaves open space for the vocals to carry the character of the track through a freefall from the heavens in an eerily unperturbed crisis of identity and discovery that leads to self-acceptance.
Can’t not talk about: I don’t care what anyone else says; I don’t buy into the theory that this song is about meth. I really think that this song is about something much bigger than drug use (although, if that’s what you want to hear, then that also applies). Crystals don’t absorb light; they reflect. Thus, they are not a very reliable way of perceiving. Instead of using your physical eyes as a way of discerning the world around you, feel the resonance and vibrations of the music traveling through your body. “Cover your crystal eyes and feel the tones that tremble down your spine.” Become and active participant in existence.
Starting at a slower, more introductory pace, this song explores the struggle between the animalistic side of humanity with the pure growth of nature and life as it builds up musically through the peaks and valleys of chaos and calm in microcosmic mimicry of the universe.
Can’t not talk about: “Eat me like a cannibal” <– Okay while this might be unsavory to some (no pun intended), I simply cannot ignore the genius of its role in the song. Powerfully pointing out (on many different levels) the flaws, hypocrisy, and torturous battle of seemingly impossible contradictions that are the inherent trademarks of humanity makes the resolution so much sweeter. I also must point out that the album draws its title from this track in the equally brilliant counterpart that balances the track with “plants awoke and they slowly grow beneath the skin”.
Resolutely continuing seamlessly the tale from the previous track, a much smaller (but no less powerful) sound echoes into the expanse first in resignation and then in explanation as a track that could also be aptly titled “Omnivores Aren’t Evil” (😉) laments its own reality and comes to terms with aspirations and foundations.
Can’t not talk about: Acoustic guitar ftw! Also, I can’t even with the amazingness of “Hungry for the kill, But this hunger, it isn’t you”.
4. Wolves Without Teeth*
The first back-and-forth conversation song, the music stays true to form in its spacious structure, allowing vocal impact to stay at the forefront and deliver its message in the first conclusion from observations about life and humanity explored heretofore in the album.
Can’t not talk about: Have you ever conceived of a more cohesive piece of introspective art, EVER??? This album is practically a movie in its storytelling, yet the content carries the weighteous and immaterial thoughts that struggle to define what life is and ought to be.
Now looking to nature to more fully explore all that humanity can learn from its structure and imagery, the music is a beautifully balanced fusion of electronic and acoustic influence in concrete ambience.
Can’t not talk about: This is probs my favorite track of the album. “Heavy stones fear no weather”<–So. Much. Genius. It really epitomizes everything that I love about the track. Also, as the most repeated refrain and most obvious choice for track title, I am SO incredibly happy that this song is, in fact, named “Empire”. It heightens the impact of the song dramatically.
6. Slow Life
Dropping all percussion for the moment to even further heighten the expansive nature of the ethereal elements, the vocals introduce the song in almost absolute isolation with more nature imagery before active drums come in, soon followed by what can only be described as a thoroughly electric guitar.
Can’t not talk about: This song has an intentionally villainous structure in the chorus. And, yes: I am bitter at their mirth. I just 😡. It’s hilarious. But it’s evil. In other news: this song sounds like it belongs in some extremely epic film score.
In a more acoustic version of the sound profile used heretofore, this song is heartbreakingly honest, crying out in pure innocence and lamenting the exhaustion of attempting to project to the world the same things that are within.
Can’t not talk about: “I should not care, but I don’t know how.” This song is unbelievably powerful. I’m quite in awe that a human wrote this down and shared it with the world. The poetry and honesty is on a level that is almost frightening to behold.
8. Black Water
Continuing beautifully the metaphorical narrative, the acoustic guitar continues on, but in a less central capacity as the lyrics proclaim a determined resolution of acceptance and every intent to overcome.
Can’t not talk about: This song (to me) feels like a baptism of darkness. In many ways, if it to be contrasted with the biblical (or metaphorical) “baptism of fire”, a baptism of water is, in fact a baptism of darkness, being plunged into the depths before rising again. (I am also reminded greatly of the story of Jonah, but that is neither here nor there.) To be perfectly clear, this song is not strictly religious to me, but I find that many artists use meaningful or well-known literature and cultural ideas as references with which to speak philosophically.
9. Thousand Eyes
What begins as a familiarly open repose quickly escalates into powerful and dramatic chaos as you begin to realize that you were living the calm before the storm.
Can’t not talk about: The transition of this song through the first and last lines from “Undo this storm” to “I am the storm” is a great example of exceptionally well-done derangement. It’s brilliant, but it’s twisted.
WARNING: This video legitimately scared me. There’s nothing wrong or bad about it; it’s just terrifying. This whole album is very psychologically powerful, and the actors in these lyric videos only enhance that. This guy did a great job, but maybe don’t watch if you get into the narrative and are prone to nightmares or are easily disturbed.
10. I Of The Storm*
On the tail of the last dramatic finale, hope appears and we begin the unyielding march of battlefield snares to face judgement head on, but not without fear, insecurity, or regret.
Can’t not talk about: I shan’t insult your intelligence by speaking of the intrigue in comparing this track with its predecessor, but I will say that as you sense the narrative seeming to draw near its end, it is equally interesting to look back to the opening track with the context of this one.
11. We Sink
Coming in powerfully with percussion and a myriad of acoustic and electric instrumentation, this track seems to finally come to a resolution in the constant conflicting bond between body and spirit that has been the theme of the entire album with the acknowledgement and understanding of an even greater, unrealized potential.
Can’t not talk about: I could not have fathomed a more perfect ending. The genius in the lyrics is layered so beautifully to draw the most powerful conclusion that is not the end.
Conclusion: This album speaks as much in its silence as it does in its vocalization in a way that fires you up and necessitates depth in conversation, introspection in the mind, and truth in the heart.
Denotes my favorites
* Denotes songs released as singles
Click here to read through Of Monsters and Men lyrics (including all the songs from this album).