Saturday, 26 December 2009

45. The Singer, Teitur (2009)

Two-and-a-half hours north of London, white wings carrying us to the top of the world. Belt on, nose pressed to the window like a curious toddler, watching us slowly descend through the clouds. Sharp-edged islands appearing one by one, arching their spiny backs towards us, looking like no land I had ever seen before. Flying over the cliff, the light bright and long - nose up, nose down - the runway shining underneath us, the wheels touching the ground, the Faroe Islands pulling us in.

When I was young, I didn't care for geography much. When I studied it in school, I only enjoyed the lessons about frothing volcanoes and natural disasters rather than river erosion and glacial moraine – I was all for great physical dramas to match my flighty adolescent ones. But as I got older, I started to get itchy feet and look beyond my blinkers, find lovely things even in the most unlovely places. I also wanted to see new things rather than scoot from A to B, so I did. There were the holidays, obviously – the two weeks from Vancouver to Portland, exploring back streets and murky corners, old cinemas and traffic bridges, the waterfall at Snoqualmie and the ice around Mount Rainier; ten days in Western Andalucia with manzanilla sherry and deep-fried sea anemones, falling into Gibraltar for Steve and Liz's wedding, falling out of the pool at 5am with the boys in our underwear; our big trip to Japan and Korea for Oliver and Hyun-Sook's wedding, the typhoon we ran through and the earthquake we slept through, the temple gates and the bullet trains, the barbecues and the paejeons, the onsens and the ryokans, the national parks and the endless tall towers. Then there were the work trips abroad after my first revelation in Vancouver, my two days in Stockholm, and the weekend in New York with Fountains Of Wayne: an incredible weekend in the perfect tiny town of Denton, Texas with Midlake; Autumn in LA with Band Of Horses; Paris with M Ward and The Feeling. And then my two very different experiences in Germany – hopping around Munich with a posh little chap called James Blunt, playing to a crowd of 11 people in a dodgy industrial park. to watching Portishead blow everyone away in a radio theatre in Berlin, hearing We Carry On take us away on a tidal wave.

And then came the Faroes, and a press trip to see Teitur. I had loved him since early January, when the album cover for The Singer stood out in the pile of CDs on my sideboard. It looked old-fashioned, like the front of a strange curiosity shop, and so it was. I adored Teitur's voice, sweet and pure but slightly skewed, singing romantic, mournful songs alongside sad brass and rich cellos, especially on its title track, a heartbreakingly simple statement of intent. "I always had the voice, and now I am a singer", he began, just as I had always had these hands, and now I am a writer; just as I always had these feet, and now I am a traveller. The simplicity of that conversion, the magic that shone from it.

We spent four days in those magical islands, driving through villages full of houses with green, grassy rooves and brightly-painted wooden walls, the lakes bright blue and silent, the air so clean it made you gulp, gulp, gulp. Teitur playing host to us, cooking us horse mussels from deep under the sea, getting us drunk on Black Sheep beer and whisky, taking us to his studio where he kept strange organ stops, harmoniums and a key under the doormat, and then us joining him the G! Festival, watching him play as the sun set, the sea and the mountains glowing behind him.

Me standing there feeling so lucky to be taking in these sights and the sounds, and then hearing The Singer, a cappella, as he finished the set. Teitur's voice vulnerable, lovely and alone, just like the islands he was singing to.

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