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Benni Hemm Hemm (Benni Hemm Hemm)

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Album Review

Because Benni Hemm Hemm makes prominent use of trumpets and acoustic guitars, the Icelandic group's debut album garnered a lot of comparisons to Beirut's Gulag Orkestar. The resemblance is minor at best, however: there is none of that album's Eastern European vibe, and rather than the "wounded young romantic" persona that Zach Condon developed for that album, the handful of English-language tunes on Benni Hemm Hemm feature titles like "I Can Love You in a Wheelchair, Baby" and "Sweaty in the Sunshine." Perhaps a closer point of comparison would be the early EPs by Jens Lekman (the tracks later compiled on the album Oh You're So Silent Jens), where quirky lyrics and unusual song structures meet lush, atmospheric production. On Benni Hemm Hemm's second album, singer/songwriter Benedikt Hermann Hermannsson chose to sing entirely in Icelandic, a wise move based on the English-language songs here: not only do the lyrics seem to be trying too hard to be eccentric, Hermannsson for some reason has pitch problems while singing in English that are less noticeable on Icelandic songs like "Sumarnott" and "Beygja Og Beygja." However, even when singing in his native tongue, Hermannsson's slightly awkward and not particularly musical voice — think of Jonathan Richman or Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson — can be a stumbling block. However, the rich orchestral arrangements and occasionally country-tinged melodies are strong enough to overcome Hermannsson's vocal weaknesses.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Benni Hemm Hemm, the Icelandic indie pop band fronted by Benedikt H. Hermannsson, first began to take root when Hermannsson, after a limited release of his solo SummerPlate EP in 2003, moved to Italy for a few months and began to write a new batch of songs. With a full band, including trumpet, bass, and flügelhorn, Benni Hemm Hemm issued their self-titled full-length debut on Iceland's Smákökurnar Records in September 2005, with reissues in Japan, Europe, and North America coming the following year...
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Benni Hemm Hemm (Benni Hemm Hemm), Benni Hemm Hemm
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