Thursday, November 29, 2012

Icelandic artists Of Monsters and Men and Sóley swing through town

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM

The population of Iceland, the whole thing, that whole chilly island, is about 320,000. Atlanta, on the other hand, has about 430,000 people living within the city limits - and that's not even counting the almost 5 million more in the metro area. That's not to boast to or to rub it in the Nordic country's face; it's just that sometimes we need a little perspective in the way we think of things. Iceland gets a lot of attention for its culture, geography, history, and all that, but is that just because it's a distinct entity? It seems easier to define an island.

So when artists from Iceland tour together, it can seem like some sort of diplomatic mission - though it's probably more a function of logistical efficiency. It's not like if two Atlanta artists toured the world together they'd get attention specifically because they came from the No. 1 of America's second-tier cities. But tonight we've got two Icelandic treats in town. Of Monsters and Men, the folk/pop sextet fronted by vocalist/guitarists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Raggi Þórhallsson, headlines the Tabernacle. In its short life since forming in 2010, the band's done a solid job of riding the post-Mumford demand for all things acoustic. But while Mumford & Sons can sometimes feel derivative of acoustic-rock forebears like the Avett Bros., Of Monsters and Men has done a neat job of finding the common ground between the group vocals and propulsive sounds of both of those bands with the anthemic, welcoming sounds of the Arcade Fire. The band's debut album My Head Is an Animal has been better received abroad than in Iceland, but maybe that's just because there are (literally) millions more people beyond the island - it's just mathematically more likely.

Sóley Stefánsdóttir - another Icelander, and one who performs just under her first name - opens the show, and while Of Monsters and Men excel at ebullient, expansive sounds, Sóley is quiet, intimate. (If you wanna keep this Iceland thing rolling, split Björk's "It's Oh So Quiet" into its two disparate moods and you get an idea of how things might compare.) Sóley, too, quickly grabbed attention with last year's We Sink. A fan-uploaded video of her tune "Pretty Face" garnered more than 9 million Youtube views. Not that numbers are an ultimate arbiter, but either a bunch of people dig her, or every single person in her home country viewed the song 30 times. Sóley's tunes are delicate and haunting, and hopefully the kind of thing that will play well in front of a crowd eager for a band with a big big sound.

Would Atlanta - larger than Iceland - receive the same attention if it were geographically distinct? Surrounded by water? If it were a country rather than a city? Maybe it's just that we don't know much about Iceland, so it's easy to compare sizes. Maybe it's intellectually fun to think about, but more of a shoulder-shrug question than something with a verifiable answer. Either way, hey, good tunes tonight.

Of Monsters and Men play with Sóley and Elle King at the Tabernacle on Thursday, November 29. $25. 8 p.m. 152 Luckie St. 404-659-9022.

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