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Boomkat Product Review:
This album has been described by Benni Hemm Hemm as containing "11 smashing ballads", and indeed it does. The Icelandic songwriter is on splendid form throughout Murta St. Calunga, which exhibits all the usual tendencies towards big band grandeur and buoyant, uptempo acoustics. Opener 'Beethoven í Kaupmannahöfn' sounds like it might be a James Last reinterpretation of something from Sufjan Stevens' catalogue, serving as an effective overture to the time signature trickery of English language ditty 'Whaling In The North Atlantic', which sounds like harpoonist's drinking song arranged in the most lavish fashion. However much might be going on in these songs, the production remains beautifully rough around the edges, with the drums in particular sounding as though they've been recorded by dangling a single mic from the ceiling. Perhaps as a consequence of this, the beatless tracks tend to really glisten, rendering the sombre brass arrangements of 'Fjalla-Eyvindur' especially effective. Benni himself is on top form throughout, peaking with the Jimmy Webb-like 'Early Morning Rain', another English language recording. You can imagine him winning an audience akin to that of fellow Scandinavian Jens Lekman if there was more of this sort of thing, but then it'd be quite a shame to hear Benni abandoning his mother tongue in the name of crossover potential. In any case, Murta St. Calunga is another winning set of songs from the Icelandic troubadour. Very highly recommended.