Oct 012008
Authors: Nick Scheidies

If the name Teo Peralez sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the signs around campus advertising his local performances. Then again, maybe you’ve just had a class with him.

Teo is in his third year at CSU, double-majoring in electrical/computer engineering and economics. With all of that on his plate, he has somehow still managed to release his third full album this September; a collection of acoustic alt-folk/indie-rock titled “The Smell of Burning Leaves.”

Don’t worry: the songs aren’t about engineering and economics. Like many great singer-songwriters, Teo’s strength lies in his lyrics, through which he ruminates on depression, politics, spirituality and other serious matters such as donuts.

The lyrical content is broad, but Teo has the vocal range to match. Whether deep and urgent on “Bombs” (“mounted preachers speak / from pedestals of lies”) or soft and lilting on “Blinded by a Memory” (“tranquil water and rustling trees are but memories”), Teo’s voice has an appealing, resonant timbre.

Thankfully that means it’s Teo’s music, not his voice, which has garnered him comparisons to Bob Dylan.

Though other influences ranging from David King to Kurt Cobain and from The Ataris to The Ramones are apparent, the variation in style unfortunately doesn’t constitute any variation in sound. Song after song finds Teo strumming a handful of overworked chords on his acoustic guitar in what is often a nearly identical rhythm.

This becomes grating, especially considering the fact that a hurried production (Teo was on a tight budget in the studio) means that his strings sometimes buzz or squeak unpleasantly.

So when Teo decides to show off his lightning quick fingers and keen ear for melody by playing lead guitar, such as on the punky “I Don’t Care,” it’s like a much needed downpour during a drought. Likewise, by mixing arpeggiated picking with strumming on “Katie’s Song (Summer Rains),” Teo helps to keep the album’s sound fresh.

Still, through 15 songs stretching for just over an hour, it’s hard not to hope for some piano, harmonica,

percussion or even bagpipe – anything to break the monotony of guitar and more guitar.

As the ellipses in the title indicate, “The Smell of Burning Leaves.” sometimes sounds more like an unfinished idea than a complete work.

Certainly, like all 20-year-olds, Teo Peralez has a lot of room to grow, and his music is part of that.

But at his best, for instance on the barn-burning “300 Days” or introspective “Staring at the Ceiling,” Teo proves himself to be an intelligent, potent songwriter and performer with a bright future in the Fort Collins music scene.

Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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