[10 May 2004]
Teitur Lassen might be one of a zillion melancholy singer-songwriters out today who bring to mind early Paul Simon, James Taylor, or Nick Drake. But Lassen, who is known primarily as Teitur, has his isolation, loneliness, and John Mayer to thank for bringing him to the forefront. Teitur’s debut album got the recognition of Mayer and the headliner sought out Teitur for his supporting act on an arena tour of North America last year. Not bad for someone from the Faroe Islands, a Denmark territory with a population of 45,000. So, in hindsight, Teitur was performing to venues which could fit half his population. Regardless, this album is well crafted, well written and extremely well delivered. The opening track, “Sleeping with the Lights On” should be a hit for Travis frontman Fran Healy as Teitur delivers it in the sweet yet alluring way. The melody is just as brilliant, a simple backbeat that isn’t quite organic but not overtly electronic or sample-y. Taking years to perfect his English well enough to write, Teitur sounds like he has the language and its nuances down pat.
Comparisons to fellow singer-songwriters like Ron Sexsmith or Ed Harcourt and especially David Gray might be justified, but Teitur seems to have a strong style of his own—mixing a melancholic pop framework within an almost folk-ish sound. The opening tune could go on for at least another minute but fades out before one grows tired of it. The acoustic-tinged “I Was Just Thinking” is another gorgeous tune fans of little-known Canadian performer Danny Michel might appreciate. John Mayer might also like to cover this tune or collaborate. “I think about long distance rates instead of kissing you babe / I’m a singer without a song / If I wait for you longer my affection is stronger”, Teitur sings in a manner that will tug at the hardest of hearts. A string arrangement comes in and out of the tune and it works almost to perfection. A more orchestral feeling soars over “You’re the Ocean”, which ventures far into a contemporary pop radio friendly ditty. One advantage is that it’s not as forgettable as most tunes on commercial stations.
When Teitur simplifies things down to his voice, an acoustic guitar, and perhaps a stool, he seems like he could take on the world and win. The title track is such an example as his voice works in tandem with the fine guitar picking. The drum brushing adds to its luster and the chorus never really breaks far from the original idea. The bridge tends to get a bit too big for its own sonic britches, but things are taken back down somewhat despite the strings working overtime. The flow of the songs is excellent as one forgets they’re a third of the way through it. The dreamy lullaby “Josephine” has a ‘70s style embedded in it as Teitur talks about the girl stealing her grandmother’s watch and the singer wondering what happened to her. Paul McCartney might do justice to this tune but very few others could top this light Beatles-esque effort. The consistency of the material is another advantage as “One and Only” hits the ground running with another swaying song that makes you want to grab your partner by the love handles and dance.
The first effort that doesn’t quite measure up is “Rough around the Edges”, which is, well, rough around the edges not to mention at its core. Although the music changes for the better and morphs into an uplifting pattern, the strings deter from the effect. Percussion is added but by this time it’s a rather messy attempt at pop-meets-folk-meets something else I haven’t figured out yet. Fortunately, he turns things back on the sparse “Let’s Go Dancing”, an improvement on the stellar earlier tracks. Ditto for “Amanda’s Dream”, another simple vignette about small towns and aspirations to get out or at least changing the status quo. It becomes harder and forceful briefly before its narrative wraps up as pleasantly as it began. The piano-driven “To Meet You” recalls an early Elton John or Billy Joel as he talks again about another simple routine of waiting to meet his belle.
Teitur says he wants his next album to be written at home and not as much on the road as this excellent effort. After listening to this record, though, you might want to have him buy a couple of plane tickets if he has more of these nuggets to mine. A fabulous and yet reflective album from a musician who has no business reflecting at age 26.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/teitur-poetry/