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Twelfth Night

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Album Review

Although billed as a Hem release, Twelfth Night rarely visits the folk-pop songwriting that earned the band a following during the early 2000s. Instead, this is a relatively traditional Celtic record (replete with flute solos, orchestral strings, and traditional Irish reels) performed by a cast of movie stars and Shakespearean actors, with Hem serving as the backup band. There are 28 tracks sandwiched into 32 minutes — a tight squeeze in theory, perhaps, although the songs rarely feel rushed — and the music vacillates between instrumentals and vocally driven numbers, devoting most of its focus to creating a mood rather than spawning hit songs. All of this leaves little room for Hem to inject their own flavor, and while the musicians provide fitting backdrops for the show's performers, they wind up playing second fiddle to the actors, the text, and the Elizabethan ambience that permeates the whole project. That's likely the point, however, and Twelfth Night ends up being a fun, unique interpretation of the titular play, even if those listening for Hem's influence will find little of the band's signature sound here.


Formed: 1999 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The genesis of the New York-based folk outfit Hem goes back to 1999, when songwriter Dan Messe teamed up with producer/engineer Gary Maurer (who had worked with artists such as Jon Spencer, Luna, Fountains of Wayne, and James Iha). The two wanted to make a record that would explore their interests in traditional American music while draping it in contemporary stylings. They enlisted friend Steve Curtis (guitar, mandolin) and, needing a singer, placed an ad in The Village Voice. After receiving numerous...
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Twelfth Night, Hem
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