Gregory Douglass — Teeter (Review)
Gregory Douglass has been releasing music independently since his beginning in 1998. I stumbled upon his music on iTunes back in 2010 and feel in love with his music. One of the records that I continue to enjoy is his 2001 release, Teeter. Douglass’s first release If I Were A Man, which he would put out while he was still in high school, has a very singer/songwriter tone. The follow up, the self titled Gregory Douglass, released in 2000 would add to it more instrumentation that gave his music a more indie/alternative sound. Teeter would go all on the indie/alternative sound. The record is a massive blend of electronic sounds, alternative rock, and indie pop/rock. Douglass’s voice is as strong as ever on each of these tracks. During this time, Douglass would put his sexuality on the back burner after a conversation he had with a premier Vermont drag queen, Yolanda’s, advice. This would be his way to attempt to get the attention of a major label. During the time, being labeled as a “gay artist” could pigeon hold someone outside the mainstream. His 3rd release, Teeter, is a fantastic listen and criminally underrated in the realms of indie music. I wanted to give a record that I not only listened to through my own coming out process, but still to this day thoroughly enjoy. Get your sea legs ready as we teeter on in.
“Hard” opens up the record. The song is a soft indie pop song which blends Douglass’s electric piano with acoustic guitar, bass, and a wash of backing vocals. The song feels like it should be one of the singles off of the record (as far as I know, Gregory does not have any singles or radio targeted tracks off this record). He takes a more sympathetic look at a break up. The break seems needed but not necessarily wanted. You can definitely feel this in the chorus as Douglass sings, “I’ll miss you hard enough to hide it/ I need you hard enough to try/ I love you hard enough to move on”. The entire song sounds hopefully in what this break will do for the both of them. He would release a live version of this song on his first live EPs, Retro Active Vol. 1. This song is a must listen off this record.
“Time” has adds in spacey electronic sounds to this soft indie pop track. I absolutely love the wash of soft synth against Douglass’s vocals in the chorus. My one detractor from the track the “do do dos” in the intro, as I feel kind of add a pop cheese factor to the song. The song looks back at on this relationship he has left. There is a strong sense of mourning over this once golden relationship that has been lost. Douglass sings, “It don’t make sense to me/ They say time’s gonna work itself out/ Like a memory on a daydream/ They say time will relieve itself/ Time’s gonna make it alright”, showing his weariness towards the old adage that time heals all wounds.
“Valley” has a much more indie rock/alternative sound. There is strong presence of electric guitars and synth sounds over Douglass’s piano. The song has a double meaning. In one way, you take it that he has been cheating, which is why he is so distraught over his behavior. The other way to take the song, knowing Douglass’s sexuality, is the shame of indulging in his homosexual urges. Either way, the song erupts in the chorus over these desires, “Unbelievable/ There’s a fire in the valley/ Burning all around, burn the whole thing down/ Unbelievable/ It gets stronger as it rains/ Burning all around, burn the whole thing down/ There’s a fire in the valley”, which only adds to the raging flames of desire and self-hatred the song paints throughout. I love the duality of the track. I find myself singing this song whenever it comes on, sometimes even singing some of Tori Amos’s Y Kant Tori Read song “Fire on the Side” to it to further add to the double meaning. It’s a highlight on the record.
“Welcome Back” has a much softer tone, similar in nature in music on his prior record. Sticking to the theme of the end of a relationship, Douglass seems to be waking up to the fact he and this person are not seeing eye to eye and maybe it is time the two part ways. The chorus seems to shock him back to reality and out of the clouded haze had over this person. He doesn’t want to be drowned in the sorrows of their relationship or be just a serf to the “king” here. I find the musical landscape of the song to be infectious. It’s just the perfect blend of indie rock and pop.
“Let Me In” is a song with another duality to it. The hypnotic constant repeat of “Let Me In” in the background is almost like his internal monologue as he works through these encounters with this person that is keeping him at arms length throughout the entire song. The person he’s interacting with is almost a stranger to him even though there’s little mementos of their prior relationship (be his their attitude or his old shirt that they are wearing). The song has this shaky effect his backing vocals and on the bridge that just feels like its somewhere between reality and a daydream. I always feel that the constant “Let Me In” repeating in the background will get on my nerves, but I think it adds to the song.
“Wild World” is another indie-singer/songwriter song similar to his 2000s release. Douglass’s world has been turned in on itself. Prior events have taken everything he once understood and fit into and stripped it from it. The second verse is a warning to those in a similar place, “If you need love you’ve got to give it any way you can/ ’Cause that’s how you’ll survive/ That’s the only way you’ve got to survive”. Finding love, be it a romantic relationship or in a friendship, will keep from the throws of loneliness. The song takes the original opening verse, “Once in my life/ I knew just what was right around the corner/ I knew what was right/ ’Til one day it all came crashing down”, and repeats it, showing the his desperation to get things back to normal. The piano and guitars really make this track that much more special to me. As quick as this song begins it just ends, much like Douglass’s prior life.
“Feel You Breathe” has very alt rock sound. The song is guitar driven throughout. Douglass is on the rebound here. From the shambles of his prior life, he has found someone that gives back color in his world. There is an uneasiness to this new love as it feels even he knows that this could get him back to where he started, but Douglass passionately sings “So I’ve made up my mind and it’s fine with me/ To give up on my world just to feel you breathe/ I’ve been here, living alone with this desperate need/ To give up on my world just to feel you breathe”. Sometimes, you just throw caution to the wind just have a moment of bliss. The electric guitars add to that manic feeling of lust and irrationalness that he is yearning over.
“Innocent” is wash synths and electric keyboards. It’s dark and moody. The lyrics are also a play off of the word “innocence”, as “in a sense” Douglass is finding out many things about himself. Through his trials and tribulations, he has both grown stronger, but also lost some of this hope for himself. Through these many self realizations he doesn’t want to lose what’s left of his innocence through this whole process. Again, I really enjoy Douglass’s wordplay on this track and the dark tone to the song. It’s a high point on the album.
“I Wonder” is piano based track. The track adds in just the addition of a soft synth in the background that only elevates Douglass’s piano playing here. The song asks the many questions running through his mind over this relationship: Will this relationship be the one?, Will this burn out as quickly as it came?, Should I stop waiting for what I am hoping for?, Why am I not getting what I wanted from this? There’s a sense of sadness through all of this, as Douglass still hasn’t actualized what he’s been searching for. This song is a sleeper hit for me off the record. I thoroughly enjoy everything the song has to offer here.
“Better Life” is the final song on the album. It’s a summery indie rock song. The song is a story song seeing a woman giving this man her everything in the pursuit of their love. The first two verses paint their love as something anthemic, “Picture everything glowing sapient warm/ Like a happy ending, like a fairy tale dream/ That’s the way a moment hits reality/ Dreams in stereo, dreams in technicolor/ All the reason to dream, all the more reason why/ I believe in love and I believe in you”. The final two verses feel like a kind of warning that if you walk away from this, you’ll be shutting the door forever on this “better life”. I’m a sucker for the summery electric guitars on this track. Douglass’s lyrical prowess is fantastic on this track. It’s a great closer on the album.
Douglass has made numerous albums sense this record. This 5th album, Stark, got a quite a bit of praise in the indie sphere. I remember videos off of his 7th album, Battler, being played on Logo’s music video block. The album would also see quest appearances from Anais Mitchell and fellow Vermont native Grace Potter. His 8th record, Lucid, is a sort of ode to his favorite Kate Bush album The Dreaming. You can also hit up Douglass on his Patreon which will help him to complete more of his upcoming projects as well as give you early access to some of the new music that he has created. I have been a long time fan of Douglass (and if your reading Gregory, if you still have CD copies of If I Were A Man and Gregory Douglass I would happily purchase them to add to my collection). I find his music to be criminally underrated and under promoted. My highlights off the record:
- “Welcome Back”
- “I Wonder”
- “Better Life”
My overall rating: 8 out of 10 fires in the valley…
Gregory Douglass’s website: https://www.gregorydouglass.com
Gregory Douglass’s Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/gregorydouglass