Saturday, 14 February 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: Teitur - The Singer

For some, the voice of Teitur Lassen is a grandiose pleasure that hypnotises the eardrums. Yet, for others, his lavender scented tones are as grating as a hangnail on a blackboard. And once the Faeroese singer-songwriter opens up his well-oiled throat you’ll know exactly why: there’s truly no middle ground when it comes to this man’s piercing pipes. But his music? Well, that’s an entirely different matter.

Rich with tenderised symphonies and dashing yarns, his fourth studio LP The Singer is an angelic, prose-heavy effort that can catch the breath with whispered brilliance, yet readily strikes out with stolid flutters of languid, directionless toils. It’s not a torturous affair; merely a frustrating one, destined to gnaw away at the frayed strands of the patience. If ever a record was made for casting a browsing thumb over the ‘Next’ button this is it.

The title-track’s introductory welcome bear testament to such laboured listening. An operatic plead of fine-tuned a cappella, it’s the type of elitist melodrama Freddie Mercury treadmilled at the bookend of his recording career. Narrated by narcissistic chords and self-aggrandising flashes of brass, there’s simply no give to vicariously whined couplets like “I sing about my loneliness and in return they thank me/ I had never meant to be a singer.”

This penchant for self-indulgence shepherds the record into a cluster of nadirs; be it the spiritless fan-boy reminiscing of ‘The Legendary Afterparty’, ‘Guilt By Association’’s laboured Bright Eyes-aping or the monochromatic dripping of ‘Letter From Alex’. Sure, each is a chest-puffing composition bulging with atmosphere, but these quarrelsome tribulations could only resonate with a hermetic teenager’s persecuted mindset.

Fortunately, Lassen encounters greater success when the tempo turns brisk; infusing a positivist feel through his bleak lyrical undercurrent. The Mexicana parps and deep dwelling bass of ‘Girl I Don’t Know’ carry his inclining crow skyward on a canvas of affective melody, while ‘Catherine The Waitress” boisterous rhythm is supplemented by the sort of jangle-happy toe-tapping Stuart Murdoch regularly dusts down his tweeds for.

A hybrid of Lassen’s dual musical predilections, ‘Start Wasting My Time’ juxtaposes tepid verses with a buoyant chorus section that saunters to the rhythmic sway of cocksure percussion and prickling guitar. It’s an extravagant swoosh that perches above much of the record’s all-consuming dreariness, proving this softly worded balladeer has the dexterity to fabricate something more gratifying than a sprawl of diluted arrangements.

While such sporadic flashes veer brilliantly off-kilter, The Singer’s one-geared nature is the making of a man who’s more than happy to play it safe. His voice may fissure opinion, but when it comes to the music Teitur Lassen takes it straight down the middle of the road.