There's something immediately warm and inviting about Stay Under the Stars. Perhaps it's the the wistful tenor of Teitur Lassen, or it could be the imperfectly rich production, or maybe it's words like, "Don't want you to wake up / stay under the stars / where no one can make us / change what we are."
Stay Under the Stars is not an exciting listen. It's not full of cheap thrills or dramatic revelations or emotional meltdowns. It's a simple album with a musical palette that extends beyond the pedestrian instrumentation of many singer/songwriters. I say the following without intending anything disparaging or belittling: it's nice.
Unfortunately, no matter when or where or how I listen to the album, my mind wanders. I find myself thinking about dogs that need to be walked, work that needs to be done, or friends who need to be called. Eventually, Teitur will reach out and pull me back into the music, but I often find that three or four songs have drifted by while my mind was elsewhere.
Sure, there are a few moments that grab my attention. The simple and lonely protagonist of "I Run the Carousel" is quietly disturbing (a mood that could have been suitably conveyed without the overtly dissonant chord progression and arrangement), and the darkness of "Great Balls of Fire" finds an emotional tension that is absent from Jerry Lee Lewis' performance. Other songs, like the blues-inspired "Boy, She Can Sing," are unsettling simply because they're bad. Most of the songs, however, are relatively unobtrusive snapshots -- little vignettes of the small things that fill all of our lives.
The arrangements are a bit better than most singer-songwriters, but the songs are pretty typical. A few words stand out (the album's closing line, "All my mistakes have become masterpieces," is my favorite), but most don't shine as either poetry or lyrics. He's at his best when he's quiet and introspective, like on "Thief About to Break In" and "Waiting for Mars," but his forays into the blues are mistakes that definitely are not masterpieces.
It's a charming package. The simplicity of the cover sets the mood perfectly. The little drawings throughout add a warm and personal touch, and remind me a bit of Sergio Aragones' marginal drawings in Mad Magazine. The notes that are randomly scribbled in the margins add to the effect, and are a very creative way to include the lyrics to the hidden track without explicitly stating its presence.
Listen if you like: Josh Ritter, Fairground Attraction, Rufus Wainwright, Jude, Sting, James Blunt
If it were food, it'd be: homemade soup that's a little bland, but has a lot of heart in it.