USA Today described the song as a "monster hit", noting its "galloping chorus" and "reverb-heavy production".PBS Arts described the song's "rolling, infectious energy" and foreboding lyrics. According to Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, the song describes two loving people talking past each other and implies one is recently deceased, saying "maybe one person isn't really hearing the other one." The song was inspired by an old house she moved into.
In August 2011, Philadelphia's Radio 104.5 began playing "Little Talks" and propelled the band to nationwide popularity in the United States. It has sold over 2 million copies in the US as of March 2013.
"Little Talks" reached number 12 in the UK charts and re-entered the UK Top 40 in 2013. The song has peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming their first top 20 single in the US. The song holds the record for the longest climb to reach the top 40 of the chart with 30 weeks. "Little Talks" is also the highest charting single to date on that chart by an Icelandic artist. On 21 July 2012, it topped the Alternative Songs list and remained for a second week, and ultimately ranked as the third most successful song on the year end list. "Little Talks" was later certified Platinum in the United States, becoming their first song to do so. The song was listed for 48 weeks.
The music video was released to the public via YouTube on 2 February 2012.
It starts with five sky-sailors (played by the male members of the band) spotting something falling from the sky. When they investigate, the object splits open to reveal a beautiful female creature (played by Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir). She joins the sailors on their sky ship, but they are attacked by an enormous two-headed bird. The lady magically vanquishes the bird, but the ship is wrecked, forcing the sailors and the lady to continue on foot into a cave. When they emerge, they are confronted by another beast, which is once again defeated by the lady. They push onwards, but as they are crossing a frozen body of water, the ice breaks, plunging them into the frigid depths and into the clutches of a sea monster. The lady dispatches the monster, and they use a floating iceberg to ascend into the skies, where they are met by an enormous animal clad in the same colors as the female creature, who smiles and rejoins her people as the song ends.
The video was created by the production firm WeWereMonkeys who also produced the video for the band's 2013 single "King and Lionheart".
In 2013 YouTube star Kurt Hugo Schneider and Coca-Cola teamed up to create music videos featuring creative covers of two 2013 hits namely "Little Talks" and Calvin Harris' "Feel So Close" for a campaign called "The Sounds of AHH". "Little Talks" shows Schneider playing only Coca-Cola bottles, glasses and cans. Featured in the version are the vocals of Kevin Olusola. Commercial edits of the video aired on season 13 premiere of American Idol on January 14, 2014 on FOX. The song was featured in the third season premiere of Covert Affairs. The song was also featured in Season 2 Episode 5 of the BBC3 comedy show Some Girls.