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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Benni Hemm Hemm
Kajak
Morr Music

Rating: 7.8/10 ?


June 12, 2007
If ever there was a current album that I could share with my father, it would hands down be this release by Iceland's Benni Hemm Hemm. Kajak reminds me of my youth and the European folk songs my dad would play in the house, drifting out of his oversize floor speakers. Perhaps it's the lyrics sung in a foreign language (Icelandic); or maybe it's the omnipresent horns, with their slight Mariachi flavor. Undoubtedly, I conclude it is simply the warmth that radiates from this album; even as I listen in the Arizona summer heat, Kajak calls up memories of sitting by the fireplace on a wintry New York night.

Mr. Benedik H. Hermannsson, aged a mere 26 years, has composed an hour-long suite that feels timeless. Similar to Zach Condon of Beirut, Benni has a capacity for transcending his age, through music that defies classification, yet sounds vaguely familiar. These are not pop or rock songs, and calling them folky misses the point. Nor would it be accurate to call them post-rock, since they don't feel like they're coming after anything per se; if anything pre-rock is getting closer. Ultimately, the songs simply play as a series of expressive tunes, personal in nature, each one melding seamlessly into the next.

Kajak, the second Benni Hemm Hemm album, was recorded in the studio of Icelandic powerhouse Sigur Rós, yet any similarities between the two artists end there. Sigur Rós is the remote reverberation of fjords being formed, Benni Hemm Hemm is the sound of flowers after the thaw. Although I cannot understand the lyrics, the music is entirely uplifting and played with a hopeful spirit; I will make the assumption that Hermannsson is not waxing poetic about the apocalypse. At their roots, the songs are simple acoustic affairs, but are truly brought life with exquisite instrumentation. Eleven musicians recorded the entire album in four days, with copious amounts of trumpets, trombones, kettledrums and glockenspiel. Quite a feat, and the detailed, fluid arrangements give off a spontaneous sensation that could only occur in such a recording environment.

Kajak is best when taken as a whole listen; it has the ability to create an atmosphere of calm indulgence, the perfect prescription for stressed out Americans. As a matter of fact, next time you're road raging after a hard day in the cubicle, drop everything, put on Kajak, light a couple of candles, stretch out, and call me in the morning. I knew I should have been a doctor.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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