Coasting into 2012 on the encouraging notion that American audiences will eat up a catchy little indie ditty under the right circumstances, Of Monsters and Men have already garnered a slew of notices that positively compare them to crossover luminaries Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and indie-rock demigods Arcade Fire. In terms of pop longevity, it remains to be seen whether the Icelandic sextet will follow the career trajectory of The White Stripes and Radiohead (fiercely original ensembles able to move units) or hew closer to the paths of Foster the People and Airborne Toxic Event (lone crossover hit populates many an indie-pop playlist, perhaps coupled with a movie trailer or two); whatever the outcome, Of Monsters and Men are on the right track with their starting-line EP Into the Woods.

And regardless of how the band performs beyond their inescapable radio hit “Little Talks”, you’ve gotta hand it to them: what a single. Effervescent, textured with trumpets and accordion, boasting co-ed point-counterpoint vocals and punctuated with ebullient “hey!”s, it’s an irresistible slice of left-of-center pop, its melody contagious enough for accessibility, but its instrumentation esoteric enough to get excited about. (That, and it features at least three different earworm melodies, the sort of hook-per-song ratio New Pornographers used to stuff albums like Thanksgiving turkeys.)

While “Little Talks” is the album’s clearest winner, Of Monsters and Men have more to offer; witness the titanic “Six Weeks”, which rides the slow gallop of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” to a Funeral-era Arcade Fire catharsis (complete with vast, expansive full-band gang vocals), or the wistful “Love Love Love”, where co-front(wo)man Nanna Hilmarsdottir sings of unrequited you-know-what with the winsome cheek of a Stephin Merritt composition. All told, Into the Woods is scant on quantity, but this six-some knows how to pack a punch; their folksy, autumnal tunes suggest indie pastiche, but their warm, swelling arrangements and the tantalizing push-and-pull of their collaborative vocals evoke the finest highs of the aforementioned Arcade Fires and New Pornos. Consider a sea of appetites whetted for the band’s forthcoming full-length, due this year; in the meantime, Into the Woods (out now on iTunes and Amazon MP3)  is a pleasing glimpse into the shifting, kitchen-sink sound of an exciting new band finding their footing.

Grade: A-

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