hide captionTeitur's latest album is called The Singer.
Courtesy of the artist
Teitur (pronounced TYE-tur) hasn't reached a big audience in the U.S., but he's the Faroe Islands' most famous singer-songwriter. Faroe is a tiny cluster of islands located in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway and is part of Denmark.
Teitur's songs mix the intense, folk-inspired sound of Jose Gonzalez with the freewheeling musical eclecticism and intricate instrumentation of Bjork. Music journalist Christian Bordal brought the singer to the NPR West studios to discuss and play songs from his new album, The Singer.
Teitur says the Faroe Islands are an idyllic place for kids to grow up, because people can always see the water from wherever they are. As he grew older, however, that isolation began to feel like confinement, and at age 17, he moved with his family to Denmark. "It just seemed like a good idea at the time," he recalls. "I was a teenager. I was bored. And I wanted to play music and go somewhere else."
Though he no longer lives on the Faroes, Teitur has maintained a close connection to his homeland. And on his new album, The Singer, he's harnessed some of the bleak iconoclasm and introspection that resides in those far-flung reaches of the Scandinavian soul.
The Singer, Teitur's third English-language album, was recorded on a picturesque Scandinavian island called Gotland, where he even found some local musicians to add to the mix.
"We found out that there was a great brass band in Gotland, and then we just set up a girls' choir," Teitur says. "We found also this musician that lives on Gotland that's amazing. He had done a lot of music for Pippi Longstocking, you know, 'cause that was all shot on Gotland, all those TV series."
Ingmar Bergman lived on a tiny island off the northern tip of Gotland for much of his life and shot some of his movies there. A melancholic, Bergman-like fascination with relationships and the human condition pervades the stories on The Singer.
The title track, with its mixture of direct storytelling, subtle humor, and musical minimalism, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Teitur channels a Scandinavian vibe into slow, often dark songs that can feel like musical fragments because of their sparse instrumentation and lack of traditional pop-song structure. But if you're willing to go with him to that quiet, sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh and contemplative place, he'll make it worth your effort.
The album is not all gloomy, however: He managed to squeeze in a light, upbeat pop number titled "Catherine the Waitress."