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  • Of Monsters and Men, Iceland's biggest band since The Soundtrack of Our Lives, has released a stellar sophomore album.

    Of Monsters and Men, Iceland’s biggest band since The Soundtrack of Our Lives, has released a stellar sophomore album.

    Of Monsters And Men, the six-member indie folk/pop band from Keflavík, Iceland, grabbed international attention with their 2011 album My Head Is An Animal. Their sophomore album, Beneath the Skin, may top it.

    Their debut album drew instant comparisons to Icelandic band, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives–no small feat.

    I was just totally knocked out by their stirring singles “Little Talks” and “King And Lionheart.” The album was totally original and vastly compelling; their lyrics took me to another level.

    The set was so good many wondered how they could possibly top it. But their follow-up Beneath The Skin, released in June, is my spot-on call for best album of the year.

    They’ve avoided classic sophomore mistakes and barely tweaked their sound. The drums have been toned down compared to the their last album, but they’ve added more atmosphere–lots more. And, does it work wonders.

    The band is made up of lead singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer and guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson keyboardist Árni Guðjónsson and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson.

    They sing in English, which is a big advantage if you’re from Iceland. They scored a breakthrough in 2010 when they won the Músíktilraunir, an annual battle of the bands competition in Iceland.

    Their talent showed in their debut album.

    My Head is an Animal, released in 2011, hit No.1 in Australia, Iceland and Ireland and No. 1 on the U.S. Rock and Alternative Music Chart. It peaked at No. 6 in the United States and No. 3 in Great Britain on the pop album charts.

    I don’t know what it is about that part of the world (maybe the cold, dark nights!). But their music stands alone for its stark beauty and remarkable sophistication.

    The first single off their new album, “Crystals” was an instant smash. But my favorite so far is “Wolves Without Teeth,” which is sure to become a classic. “Slow Life,” “Empire” and “Black Water” are additional, insanely memorable tracks.

    Part Lumineers and part Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men has produced the most mesmerizing album of the year; full of energy and authenticity.

    MCG Jazz Keeping the Light on Jazz in Pittsburgh

    mcg-jazzMCG Jazz is just one affiliate of the collective Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG), a nonprofit multi-discipline art, education and music organization established in 1968 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

    It’s located on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, close to the Manchester neighborhood where it was founded.

    All Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild arts and music programs share a common vision born 0f founder Bill Strickland. He established the group’s mission: To preserve, present and promote jazz, and it’s continuing to do just that.

    Since 1987, MCG Jazz has brought audiences together with jazz artists at its 350-seat music hall for an innovative 16-part, subscription-based concert series, showcasing the best jazz legends and emerging artists.

    Each year, MCG Jazz presents an average of 30 public performances, featuring 20 headlining artists, as well as 12 educational activities.

    ““The jazz artists come to the MCG to perform with an understanding that we’re a school,” says MCG Jazz Executive Producer Marty Ashby.

    “Most leave with the feeling that they got as much or more from their MCG experience than they gave. They frequently mention the ‘hope’ and ‘the spirit of the place,'” he says.

    Names in the News

    Van Dean, Broadway Records, Wayne Avers, Jacqueline Boyd, Tony King, Bruce Grakal, Fred Goodman, Allan Steckler, Tyrone Biljan, Tom & Lisa Cuddy, Keith Girard, Steve Marinucci, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Paul Shaffer, Will Lee, Robbie Williams, Jane Blunkell, Chip