The Faroe Islands are in Northern Europe, sandwiched between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. As a part of Denmark, the inhabitants are mostly Scandinavian folk who speak the Nordic language of Faroese, as well as English. You can celebrate your 18th birthday with a pint of beer in the Faroe Islands, and you can do it while enjoying the gentle sounds of finger-picking local troubadour Teitur Lassen.
The singer/songwriter has compiled 11 acoustic-guitar-based songs for his debut, Poetry & Aeroplanes. He’ll undoubtedly sell most of his merchandiser’s supply on his upcoming tour with fraternity mascot John Mayer. In the meantime, before the album is re-pressed, before Teitur’s boyish face is plastered across every magazine cover in the United States as he upstages his tour mate, fans of the prevalent singer-songwriter genre should embrace Poetry and Aeroplanes.
Though all tracks on the album feature more than just acoustic guitar and vocals, each lends itself to a stripped-down live setting; the melodies are based around the guitar itself. The vocals are those of a younger Sting, and occasionally reach the emotional heights of Coldplay’s confessional ballads. Lassen tells saddening tales that all twentysomethings have grown entirely too familiar with: boy meets girl, loves the dickens out of her, girl takes off, end of story.
“Sleeping with the Lights On” is exactly what the title might suggest, as our Faroese gent finds comfort in well-lit slumber; the dark is just too lonely. Over a richly textured drum loop, guitar and piano, he admits post-breakup ailments that willpower normally won’t allow: “Feel like waking up in your house someday,” but he knows that “nothing’s gonna change.” There are moments in the second track that will hearken to early Donovan’s minimalism. But again, Lassen drifts vocally through the most miserable of “Kodak Delights,” as “I was Just Thinking” is an example of the desperate search for an excuse to phone a former love.
Solitude from this gloom can be found in Lassen’s willingness to return to his childhood. In “Josephine” he recounts “stray dogs,” the “old stream,” and his “neighborhood queen,” as the wounds from grade-school crushes heal much faster than the forlornness that sometimes plagues adulthood.
“You’re the Ocean” and “Rough around the Edges” could conceivably top the charts, and Lassen’s name could end up on T-shirts in college bookstores nationwide. These are the album’s accessible selections, and detract slightly from the rest of its mournful and lovely tones. This veering doesn’t last, and although there are (few) aspects of Lassen’s work that may lend too well to bland radio, Poetry and Aeroplanes showcases a talent that can’t exactly be pinned down, as it is traditional in form but quite refreshing in style and production.
Without littering a somewhat introspective review (thus far, anyway) with loads of 1960s references, Lassen’s LP is recorded in such a manner that the songs here rarely reveal their lush surfaces right away. The production efforts are masterful in that the selections that call for sparse arrangements are just that, while layers of strings and warm organ fall snugly into place when needed. By this, Mr. Lassen’s heartbreaking numbers, which require the atmosphere of a barren coffee shop, are successfully communicated through wise studio skill.
Teitur Lassen speaks for the broken-hearted, who, for the most part, may be too timid to speak for themselves. His first effort is shamelessly honest and hints at very beautiful things to come.