Of Monsters and Men’s third album, Fever Dream, is aptly titled. It follows a subconscious trajectory; starting off nice and slow and bringing the listener into a state of calm. That is until the deep cuts introduce chaos and uncertainty into the dreamlike state. Reaching the end is like awakening from a strange, chaotic slumber. Still, you’re left feeling refreshed as a sense of calm permeates all aspects of the record.
Opener and lead single “Alligator” eases into a dreamlike state with ambient keyboards and an electric guitar. It begins to build with the addition of the vocals and tambourine, but even the drumming blends into the mix rather than overpowering it. There is a reference to the album title in the chorus—and consequently the rest of the album—”I’m fever dreaming.” The increased emphasis on pulsating synths gives a more alien take on Of Monsters And Men. It’s still within the band’s pleasant timbre, just more of a space probe than a horse carriage.
“Waiting For The Snow” seems to act as a foil to the band’s 2011 romantic hit “Little Talks.” The new song centers on the hesitations and issues that pop up during long-term relationships. Its forlorn piano chords and nuanced electronic textures evoke a feeling of lovers holding their breath waiting for something. “Little Talks” used bright brass and upbeat singing. Both “Little Talks” and “Waiting for the Snow” lyrically approach the changes in a relationship over time—starting out blissfully happy and progressing to conflict as the honeymoon period ends. But this song carries a melancholic undertone.
The most poppy song on the album comes toward the end with the disco-tinged “Wars.” The hook, “I love you on the weekends,” follows suit with the more stripped-back electro-acoustic approach. Some people just don’t feel ready to make relationship commitments, the song seems to say. The characters get stuck in the “talking” phase, not ready to be the first one to make a leap. It’s more about living in the moment than getting tied down.
Sonically, “Wars” builds by overlapping instruments rather than cycling through them. The synths and percussion interact with acoustic instruments and the familiar, expressive vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson.
Closer “Soothsayer” effectively brings the album full circle. It feels like waking up after a strange dream but in a perfectly calm state. Its narrative diverts from the relational discussion between equals, with one person asking the other to stay and validate where the relationship stands. The song starts off with bombastic new wave percussion and distorted alt-rock riffs coming in all at once to give dreamers a healthy wake up call.
Of Monsters and Men have come created a conceptual album. While the more chaotic midsection asks the often disquieting question of where a relationship stands, the music itself has a more calming effect than the issue the audience is left to ponder.