Saturday, May 26, 2007

Benni Hemm Hemm--Kajak (2007)

Artist-Benni Hemm Hemm
Release Date-May 15, 2007
Genre/Style-Indie Rock/Indie Pop


Review-Even though Benedikt H. Hermannsonn comes from Iceland, the warmly melancholic indie pop he plays with his group Benni Hemm Hemm has much more to do with American acts Neutral Milk Hotel or Sufjan Stevens than compatriots Björk or Sigur Rós. With his acoustic guitar and voice backed by horns, drums, glockenspiel, and harmonium, Hermannsonn plays songs that speak of love and isolation using natural and meteorological imagery: hills, rain, snow, sun, and wind. All in Icelandic, of course, which gives an element of novelty, of exoticness, to otherwise fairly typical lo-fi indie pop. Because, despite the relatively obscure language they're sung in, the tracks on Kajak, the band's second full-length, are not much more than pretty, occasionally interesting (like when acoustic guitar and percussion band noisily together on the opening of "Stoffer"), with drawn-out, repeating lines, slurred whole notes and major scales. The album is nice, in that summery background kind of way, but nothing is overly catchy or makes you want to sing — or at the least, hum — along. Hermannsonn's voice is mildly expressive, but not resonant, and though the songs never drag, the endless layering, the lullaby- or round-like melodies, and the shift in dynamics, can get a bit monotonous, or at least work to relegate Kajak to the backdrop. That's not to say Benni Hemm Hemm doesn't hold some appeal: there's certainly something touching in the quavering delivery, the rustling drums, the picked chords, but it comes only in moments — in the first bars of "Snjórljóssnjór," when the horns enter in "Skvavars," in the aggression in "Sól á Heyhóla" — and can't, unfortunately sustain itself throughout the record's entirety.

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