Faroe Islander Teitur Lassen's UK debut The Singer is one of this year's more arresting releases, its mischievous, emotionally revealing songs employing a thrilling mix of memorable images, inventive chamber-pop arrangements, and deceptive lyrical strategies – most notably the unreliable narrator whose observations suddenly turn in upon themselves to illuminate the singer's own situation.
Before this, however, Teitur had already earned a measure of homegrown Danish success with his earlier albums Poetry & Aeroplanes and Stay Under The Stars. It's from these that the bulk of the songs on the catch-up compilation All My Mistakes are derived. Their arrangements are nowhere near as sophisticated as those devised for The Singer – most involving only acoustic guitar and strings in a manner that casts the singer as a sort of Danish David Gray – while the more straightforward love songs such as "One & Only", "Don't Want You To Wake Up" and "Sleeping With The Lights On" exposes his vulnerability in a way that he would later skilfully evade. But he's still capable of succinct insights, such as when discussing romantic opposites in "You're The Ocean" – "Love is somewhere in between/What you believe and what you dream".
But the candid nature of these songs means that just when you're settled emotionally, a lyrical thorn will prickle. On the surface, "I Was Just Thinking" is a heartwarming statement of devotion, until the singer's frustration at being separated from his lover turns corrosive: "I'm tired of calling you once a week, and thinking of long-distance rates instead of kissing you." Likewise, the cosy guitar arpeggios of "I Run The Carousel" are ruptured by darker piano chords as the carney's envy of his happy customers breaks through his veneer of disinterest. Elsewhere, "Josephine" contains the kind of childhood reminiscence that can't be found in Mika's dress-up box, while "Louis Louis" laments the decline of articulate songcraft due to insipid dance music – something Teitur's own existence would seem to disprove.
The best arrangements, and the quirkiest songs, are those representing the Singer, the fantasy love-object of "The Girl I Don't Know", who is glimpsed occasionally through a horn arrangement akin to Calexico's desert noirscapes, while the chirpy tribute to "Catherine The Waitress" rides an undercarriage of marimba and throbbing reeds akin to Steve Reich'ss "Music For 18 Musicians". But although the rest of these early pieces are less imaginatively realised, there's more than enough evidence here to bear out Teitur's assertion, in the title-track, that "all my mistakes have become masterpieces".
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