Benni Hemm Hemm is the newest release on the Morr Music label, and the first release in some time on that label to actually perk up my ears a little. After a slew of almost emo-sounding electronic pop releases, Kajak sounds like something a bit more vibrant and exciting from the label. Led by Icelander Benedik H. Hemannsson, the group of friends recorded the album in a brief four days in the studio of Sigur Ros, capturing a vibrant batch of thirteen songs that clocks in at just over fifty minutes and brims with horns and whimsical arrangements.
After a couple slower opening tracks, things really get going with the lovely "Snjór ljós snjór," a veering gem that mixes delicate horn croons with sharp drum bursts, acoustic guitars, and rollicking sections where the large ensemble keep pouring it on. There are vocals in Icelandic as well, but like many other international artists creating interesting music it doesn't really matter too much that you can't understand them. "Sogartár" is another standout, sounding something like an Icelandic version of Sufjan Stevens as the group mixes quiet acoustic-driven sections with soaring passages of horns and dense instrumentation.
The album does have a couple weaknesses, the biggest of which is a middle-section of longer, slower songs that sap much of the energy that the group creates during the first one-third of the release. After a the tracks mentioned above (and the racing "Hól á Hey Hóla"), Kajak drops off for nearly 20 minutes, with several tracks of quiet guitar and vocals that aren't nearly as developed as earlier songs. Once the group gets going again, the album largely rights itself, but sometimes still has a hard time shaking free of arrangement structures (quiet to boisterously-loud) that they introduced on earlier songs (although the freakout closing section of "Eg á Bát" is quite an unexpected blast). Considering this is just a debut, there's plenty of joyous music to find on Kajak (and Jens Lekman seemed to agree, lending his playing talents to the first song), and here's betting their second release is even better.