Though it seems, on first hearing, not to have the depth or diversity of 2009's stunning The Singer, Teitur Lassen's fifth collection of songs soon winds itself inexorably round one's heart, its emotional tendrils taking purchase like clematis scaling a garden wall.
The main difference is in the arrangements. Gone are its predecessor's more exotic excursions into minimalism and art-song, replaced by a more direct, American-style of arrangement that sometimes seems uncomfortably naked. But it's naked in the manner of Paul Simon in his less cryptic moments (such as, say, "Something So Right"). There's a simplicity and immediacy that cuts away any unnecessary poetic obfuscation in tracks like the rumination on time and change, "Waverly Place", and the paean to passivity "Fly On The Wall". "What can you be but a fly on the wall," asks Teitur, "when the world is so great, and we are so small?"
Like Simon, he has the rare gift to spark recognition with a single line, then expand the recognition into revelation. "All the things that I owned ended up owning me," observes the protagonist of "When I Had It All", going on to realise, too late, that all he really needed was his now-departed lover. In the punningly-titled "Betty Hedges" ("hedging bets", see?), his incurable procrastination is perfectly skewered with the observation, "Big questions need small answers like yes or no". As so often in Lassen's songs, romantic expectations prove unreliable. "I never rode a freight train... never got drunk in Spain," laments the wannabe-free subject of "Freight Train", while Los Angeles is painted in pastel hues of disappointment in "You Never Leave LA". Fittingly, the Seventies singer-songwriter style employed on most of the arrangements ensures that the latter has exactly the appropriate Asylum Records sound for a song which depicts Laurel Canyon filling up with broken dreams.
Only on "Stormy Weather" does the arrangement strike out for uncharted terrain, with slow, expectant piano monochords and a yawning bass growl, akin to throat-singing, eventually supplanted by stark electric guitar, glockenspiel and eerie ambient tones. But it's not as effective in conveying the song's meaning as, say, the simple organ and piano setting for the theological musings of "God, I Have So Many Things To Tell You", or the wistful strings and keyboards underscoring the apprehension of "Very Careless People". The latter is a delicately-wrought piece in which Teitur ruefully admits, "She's got a right to mess up her life – who am I to deny her, or inspire her?"
"I am in a place in my life where I need to make something that is safe, comfortable and more effortless," explains Teitur, justifying his abandonment of the complex arrangements of previous recordings, and his new-found interest in direct, classic songcraft. "I've learned that you become the music you write – and it sucks to travel around singing about funerals, death and yourself. Trust me, it does."
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