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Poetry & Aeroplanes - Teitur (Universal Records, 2003)

Teitur Lassen's first name means 'happy man,' though that is hardly reflected in his debut album Poetry and Aeroplanes, which is produced by synth-pop guru Rupert Hine (The Waterboys, The Fixx, Tina Turner).  In a gentle voice greatly reminiscent of Sting with a bit of John Mayer thrown in, the native of the Faroe Islands, which are off the Norwegian coast and part of the Danish kingdom, Teitur often sings of the loneliness of a traveller far from home in calm, instantly loveable acoustic melodies. 

Surely this record is the opposite of urban rock, as Teitur's world that seeps into these easy, uncluttered tracks is one of endless horizons marked by meadows surrounded by water.  Now based in New York, he is apparently one of the few of the 46,000 inhabitants of his homeland to accomplish much, as they awarded him the Achievement of the Year Award when he signed with Universal last year.  I agree that there is a lot to be proud of here.

Travel and distance are certainly troubling his subconscious if not the constant focus of his brain.  The last three songs alone begin with references to travelling, and the deliciously poignant I Was Just Thinking bemoans the hardship of a long-distance relationship ('I think about long distance rates instead of kissing you babe')

Teitur's mainly acoustic guitars are brightened up by additional players from time to time and frequently warmed with beautifully subtle strings.  This understated approach to simple melodies and heartfelt words creates an enormously appealing set of songs with a relaxed but more upbeat modern spin on the folky balladry of decades ago.  His words convey a spiritual calm despite the loss of love to heartbreak or distance.  Teitur was apparently inspired to venture into this acoustic world in which he is so welcome when he heard Suzanne Vega's Luka, and although nothing here imitates that song, Vega fans would easily enjoy his brand of innocent storytelling, as would fans of Damien Rice or Jewel collaborator Steve Poltz.  The influence of Vega, James Taylor and Randy Newman is translucently visible in his style.

Every one of the 11 eminently catchy tracks can be luxuriated in, probably whilst relaxing with one's feet up.  Difficult though it is to choose highlights from a whole pool of brightness, the trickly guitars of Rough Around the Edges bring the delightful melody to the fore, and the bright, gentle approach and blissful lilting vocals of Shade of a Shadow ('You're the ray of the sun / I'm a shade of a shadow') is a particular instant winner.   The rapid Paul Simon verses and tuneful refrain ('Love is somewhere in between what you believe and what you dream') of You're the Ocean would help it ease into airplay were such a thing on offer, as would the mellifluous One and Only grazed by harpsichord.   The sad, dark gypsy undertones of the delicate string-laden Josephine ('Are you still kissing cowboys that cry, Josephine?') sounds like something Peter Sarstedt could sing with pride.

Whilst his lyrics are not deep and opaque puzzles you would need to ponder over to decipher, it is nevertheless hard to believe that the songs were written in a language other than the performer's native tongue.  Thank goodness the world can be exposed to this gift of the Faroe Islands, surely their greatest export.  What a relief it is that the apparent death of the A&R man in favour of weak Pop Idol type programmes and manufactured people-products have not shut the doors completely to this type of special, refreshing discovery that deserves to be heard by the world.

Listen to samples at Amazon.co.uk (available there as an import for a good price) or  at Auralgasms

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Volume 4 - Joe Jackson Band (Rykodisc, 2003)

You may have,  like me, loved Joe Jackson in the '70s and early '80s, but then lost track somewhere as he released various concept albums or toyed with different genres.  I hung in there for a while and still admired his work, but I must admit that one of his albums is still in the wrapper, so I clearly lost enthusiasm along the line.

Never fear though, as Joe Jackson is back.  This fantastic album not only sees him reunited with his original band of Dave Houghton (drums), Graham Maby (Bass) and Gary Sanford (Guitar) for what effectively celebrates 25 years since they first got together, but it also sees a return to his early form of punchy, witty songs for the angry young man interspersed with beautiful ballads.  All of the band members contribute backing vocals that keep the album extra punchy, along with Jackson's memorable piano talents.

Take it Like a Man could be straight from 70s Jackson, rapidly spitting out sarcasm, whilst still somehow bang up-to-date.  Still Alive has an intriguing eastern feel but maintains that signature Jackson rhythm, and Awkward Age really will have you checking your watch to make sure you haven't missed a few decades.  That is not to say it is dated, but rather it is pure perfect Jackson, pounding out a remarkable punchy rhythm on one hand and singing lovely harmonies on the other--all wrapped in a sense of terrific fun.  It would be easy to get so caught up enjoying the tune that you miss the wit.  He deliciously describes the youth of whom he sings: ' Old enough to stand out but too young to stand with pride / So uncomfortable in your messed-up skin / And the cool parties never let you in.'   He tries to comfort her with his understanding of being the last kid chosen for teams, whilst at the same time looking back at her and feeling lost in his supposedly wizened older age.  'I really thought by now a few things might just clarify / I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days / And a body that sometimes disobeys.'  Pure brilliance.

Every track is a wonderful, welcome return to the Jackson we all loved so, but strong enough to be enjoyed by anyone oblivious to his past, as well.  The other highlights are surely Chrome, Love at First Light and Blue Flame. 

Chrome has an easily lounge-room jazzy feel in its marvellous melody, full of admiration for an old acquaintance who has now hit stardom.  'Now you shine like chrome...and from Tokyo to Rome, We're all aware of you' before 'You're so hard and cold like chrome / And I'd like to take you home / But I'm scared of you.'

Love at First Light is a heart-stopping accomplishment.  A stunning ballad one might have found on his popular Night and Day album, the singer--and he certainly reminds us that he has clear talents there--displays a touching sensitivity and sings of waking after what began as a one-night stand with deep hopes of something wonderful emerging from it.   The wickedness of their night before is described as 'But oh was it ever so good being bad / Like a couple of vampires, deliciously mad / Saying this is the best blood that we've ever had / So we drank it all night.'  Then comes hope after finding some common ground: 'Let's open the curtains and let out the dark / And if the sun doesn't melt us and there's still a spark / And we do something human like walk in the park / The spark could ignite.'

Blue Flame is another touching ballad, more understated than the epic feel of Love at First Light.   He is trying to approach the unapproachable, someone who has walls 'fifty feet high with barbed wire / Guards on the top / Aiming rifles at your lovers one by one / And friends too.'  The song is inevitably full of warnings for the heart: 'Bitterness is a black hole'  and 'Sadness spreads like a black stain,' he fills the gorgeous chorus with 'There's a blue flame inside of you....Love's not something we decide to do / You'd be so hard to love / if love was not just There.'

After more examples of proof that the angry young man is still there, draped in lyrical wizardry and simple truths, Jackson closes the album with another wonderful, catchy and rapidly delivered tune that fits on this album as well as it would have on Look Sharp.  Bright Grey's drums could almost have you head-banging were you not too busy with your adult responsibilities, as the sensible adult you now are if you grew up with Jackson's music, understanding his lament for the modern situation where women seem to be from Venus and  men are from Mars, or such are the stereotypes that people seem to fall into now.  Another giveaway that the song is not from the 70s is the accusing line: 'She says I caught you, I went through your e-mail'.

I grow more delighted with this album each time I hear any of its songs.  Be sure to get your copy now while the limited edition 'special bonus CD' is still available.  The bonus CD is a tangible dream, an excellent recording of unstoppable live performances last year of impeccable classics One More Time, Is She Really Going Out With Him?, On Your Radio, Got the Time, It's Different For Girls and I'm the Man.  If I weren't certain I were a happy 30-something, I'd think I were back in my teens worshipping this man's music for the first time....at least I can draw the curtains and dance around the room now when I put on this album.  We're not all as old as our skin implies.

Listen to samples at Amazon.co.uk

 

Copyright 2003 by TC. All rights reserved.

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