A Faroe Islander whose distinctive, idiosyncratic tone compares to fellow "Northern Lights" artists such as Stina Nordenstam, Bjork and Sigur Ros.
Teitur Lassen is an intriguing writer and a moving singer whose performances on The Singer wreak a kind of understated but devastating passion comparable to Anthony & The Johnsons. Despite having recorded several albums since 2003 – he spent a few frustratingly unappreciated years with Universal before opting for a more self-determined route – The Singer is, to my knowledge, his first UK release, albeit a year later than most other territories.
Teitur manages the remarkable feat of taking episodes from his own life and dramatising them in songs which manage to reflect the ambivalence, unexpectedness and sometimes downright contradictory nature of reality, in a mischievous character whose black humour can cause the laugh to choke in one's throat, or transform tears of sadness to tears of joy, mid-song. The cheeky self-aggrandisement of the title-track, for instance, disguises a tribute to the way that singing can be simultaneously both individual expression and act of communion between performer and audience; and in "We Still Drink The Same Water", his musings about a reclusive former girlfriend reveal himself as the real estranged victim of the failed relationship.
Perhaps pointedly, that song follows two others dealing with fantasy relationships. Set to a Calexico-esque faux-Western arrangement of horns, guitar, drums and prepared piano, "The Girl I Don't Know" finds Teitur, in a lovely image, "walk[ing] these streets with her name in my shadow", while his fond fantasies of dating "Catherine The Waitress", set to Steve Reich-like marimba and throbbing reeds, are suddenly disturbed, halfway through, by a disconcerting reference to a nasty accident.
Death stalks several of these songs, from the funeral tableau "You Should Have Seen Us" and the accidental manslaughter in "Guilt By Association", to the moving account of a "Legendary Afterparty" spent in a cheap motel with the blues guitarist Chris Whitley, then (unbeknown to Teitur) dying of lung cancer but smoking hard nonetheless.
Rather than a pop record, The Singer is in the tradition of lieder and art-song, with the extraordinary arrangements of marimba, prepared piano, brass, reeds, percussion and mournful bowed bass devised by Lassen and his chief collaborator Tróndur Bogason cut to the bone for maximum effect it's often uncomfortable, but never uninteresting; for all its mischief and frivolity, it's devoid of emotional artifice A rare beast.
Pick of the album:'The Singer', 'Your Great Book', 'The Girl I Don't Know', 'Catherine The Waitress', 'Legendary Afterparty', 'Letter From Alex'