Review ·

A charmingly ramshackle feel pervades Benni Hemm Hemm's self-titled debut, dressing offbeat folky pop with a big band that includes trumpets, glockenspiel, trombones and cornets. The brain child of Benedikt H. Hermannsson, the twenty-six-year-old former member of the punk band Rúnk, Benni Hemm Hemm is further proof that Iceland has become the most reliable hotbed for unconventional rock music.

 

Recorded primarily in the Sundlaugin studio, a former swimming pool best known as the workspace of Sigur Ros, and produced by Gunnar Tynes (Mum, Slowblow), Benni Hemm Hemm (which received Album of the Year and Most Promising New Act prizes at the 2005 Iceland Music Awards) is full of intimate songwriting and boasts an impressively spacious sound. Somehow the eccentricity, humor and sincerity of Hermannsson's acoustic guitar and breathy vocals remain clear amidst the large band (often up to seventeen people). The lively brass section succeeds thanks to its looseness; its lack of military the fitting complement to Hermannsson's penchant for haphazard composition and lyrical, childlike simplicity.

 

The album's most conventional song and aptest single, "I Could Love You in a Wheelchair," is among its most restrained. With a delivery both winking and earnest, Hermannsson pledges unconditional love in basic terms, a subject he finds so elemental that the lyrics -- just four lines, repeated -- need no further embellishment. "I can love you in a wheelchair, baby/ I can love you any way you want/ I can love you anywhere you want me to/ I can do it anytime," he vows. Romantic cynics, consider yourselves warned.

 

Elsewhere, more elaborate instrumental pieces in "BeginningEnd" and "Beygja Og Beygja" burst with melodic, jaunty horn lines, while "The Doomed the Damned" showcases a willowy horn motif that lilts around a delicate vocal harmony. With elaborate instrumentation that complements -- rather than camouflages -- an inventive melodic sensibility, perhaps Iceland has found its very own Sufjan Stevens.

 

***

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Band: http://www.bennihemmhemm.com/

Label: http://www.morrmusic.com/

Audio: http://myspace.com/bennihemmhemm

"I Could Love You in a Wheelchair" MP3

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