Benni Hemm Hemm’s press kit points out that his bilingual recording won “best album of the island state on the occasion of the Icelandic Music Awards”. This is true, but it doesn’t mention that the Icelandic Music Awards has several Best Album categories. He won his title in the catch-all category of Various. This makes him officially weirder than the impassioned groaning of Sigur Rós, which won the same award in the tidier category of Rock-slash-Alternative. Various is too polite—they should have put him under Odd. He sounds like an indie folk busker with a horn section. When he sings in Icelandic, the songs rise to crescendos and then drop away into pits where his low, flat voice rolls back and forth. The English-language songs tend to be smoother, and his English lyrics are enlivened by a deadpan Scandinavian sense of humour. “I Can Love You in a Wheelchair, Baby” has “quirky novelty hit” written all over it. The music jumps around so much that the whole album never quite gels, but as a reminder of the intrepid, home-made spirit of much Icelandic music and the varied uses to which folk can be put, it’s an interesting CD to have around.
// Notes from the Road
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