Normally, there’s a formula for this sort of thing: Take handsome-but-humble young man, add acoustic guitar, add professional, sincere songwriting, add ace production team, and voila! The next great (read: popular) singer-songwriter is unleashed upon the world.
The trick, then, for the music buyer in search of the next great love of his or her ever-expanding record collection is to find those singer-songwriters who weren’t assembled via the recipe above. To find such an artist is to find something unique, something with adorable idiosyncrasies, deeper lyrics than your average high school diary entry, and enough raw emotion to melt the hardened hearts of those jaded by too many milquetoast John Mayer impersonators. As you, dear reader, may have surmised by now, Teitur is just such an artist.
Stay Under the Stars
US: 5 Sep 2006
UK: Available as import
Norway release date: May 2006
Teitur, whose full name happens to be Teitur Lassen, has a quiet style; prone, almost. The downcast look he gives on the cover of his latest album Stay Under the Stars is more “can’t bear to look” than “would rather not look,” and it’s a style that fits his tentative, careful songwriting style. Every word, every guitar note is aurally pored over, as if Teitur is thinking carefully about each and every utterance that his lovely tenor voice has a chance to sing. But oh, when that voice sings those words, it is a beautiful sound—his higher register sounds a bit like an everyman’s Antony, quivering and pure but a little broken, while his lower notes are a bit closer to a Faroese Paul Simon.
Nowhere on Stay Under the Stars is Teitur’s approach to performance more on display than in the one cover song on the album: of all things, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire”. Here, “Great Balls of Fire” isn’t so much rock ‘n roll as it is a dirge, the simple slowing down of the song’s “You broke my will / Oh, what a thrill” lending it a new, slightly sado-masochistic (and almost certainly self-loathing) meaning. The fact that the performance that appears here is live and backed by what sounds like a string quartet only heightens the drama, Teitur’s suble guitar tones serving only as texture, gravy on the meat ‘n potatoes of the song proper. It’s an interesting take on the song, and Teitur handles it well—what could easily have been a comical take on the original, intentionally or not, is instead quite ready to be taken seriously as a beautiful think-piece.
None of this is to say that Teiture is completely set on being taken seriously all of the time; as a matter of fact, it seems that pianos bring out Teitur’s fun side, lending a much-appreciated light-hearted sensibility when it’s needed most. “Boy, She Can Sing!” is a bluesy barroom stomp, complete with whoops and hollers, while “I Run the Carousel” is a perfect little ode to pride in one’s place in the world, with lots of big piano-based open fifths giving the chorus a quirky, slightly off-balance charm.
Still, it only takes one listen to realize that Teitur’s true strength lies in his slow, lovelorn odes to things he may or may not be able to have. Opener “Don’t Want You to Wake Up” (“I try to be silent / My eyes are too loud / I sit back in my hiding / While you’re in the clouds”) is a beautiful, gentle way to start the album, all perfectly-placed strings and bells and Teitur himself trying desperately to hold on to a moment in time. “You Get Me” is just what its title implies, a slow, thoughtful ode to the one person who truly understands, and the short “Night Time Works” (“Yellow lights spin on rainy roads / And we pass by like fireflies”) is replete with beautifully expressive imagery.
“Certain things are best kept for nighttime / Like makin’ tea, makin’ babies”, Teitur sings in that latter song, and it’s easy to add listening to Stay Under the Stars to that list. As a whole, it’s admittedly unremarkable, but it’s unremarkable in such a unique, gratifying way that one cannot help but be drawn to it. It’s an album to play amongst silence and darkness, an album to take in, rather than merely listen to. And it might just be the little treasure you’ve been looking for.