The familial, female-driven experimental pop group TEEN recently brought their talents to Brooklyn’s Newtown Radio to lay down a video session. The band released one of my favorite debut efforts from 2012 in the form of their underrated LP In Limbo. TEEN played a new track entitled “Paradise” that centers around a frivolous fool before walking a spaced-out, synth-heavy bridge into “Better.” The two tracks showcase the strides that TEEN has taken since the recording of their little doods, the lo-fi EP of demos the band recorded in early 2011. This isn’t your older sister’s bubble gum brand of girl pop.
Upon hearing of Brooklyn’s TEEN, you will likely be fed a shallow narrative that unfolds something like this: Rock chick leaves successful up-and-coming band. Rock-chick joins up with sisters and friends to form all-girl electro pop group. Look at them now. Aren’t they cute? (For evidence, see our Band to Watch post)
While this storyline is an accurate assessment of how Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson’s new project TEEN came to be, it fails to do their debut LP In Limbo justice. The album kicks off with “Better.” A song whose girl-power infused hook could be easily substituted for the shitty rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Anything You Can Do” from that old Mia Hamm vs. Michael Jordan Gatorade commercial. Yet, set against the backdrop of intricately woven synth and vocal lines and a foot stomping rhythm section, the chorus proves more irresistible than trite.
Follow-up “Come Back” is my favorite cut from the LP. The song turns the traditional narrative of the desperate female on its head. Here, Teeny spends the chorus begging for the return of a lost love. In the verses, though, we learn that her loneliness comes as the result of loving and leaving too many half-forgotten names on the road to now. Her regret stems not from whether she may one day find love, but rather the thought that she may have already cast it aside. A familiar storyline from your male rock n’ roller, but rarely one told from the female perspective.
Rather than present their brand of girl-pop in concise, pre-packaged three-minute infomercials, TEEN has chosen to challenge its audience. Seven of In Limbo’s 11 tracks stretch beyond five minutes. The band’s attempt to break down and re-purpose the traditional notion of a pop song is an admirable one, but testing the limits of listeners’ ever-shrinking attention spans proves a dangerous decision on a debut.
The B-side of In Limbo occasionally loses its focus, dissolving into trippy meditations. Even those moments manage to hit their mark on tracks like “Sleep is Noise” and “Fire“. The good news is that the few songs that fell flat for me on the album, I found captivating in the stripped down space of TEEN’s Secret Garden video session. Typically the reverse is true, a successful cut off the LP proves completely dysfunctional in a live setting. It’s an encouraging trait for a new band in an era in which live gigs provide the meat and potatoes and album sales increasingly cover dessert.
With a four-track EP and a fascinating mix tape of covers under their belt, TEEN is a band that appears road-ready from Jump Street. These girls have achieved an astonishing amount of depth both sonically and lyrically on In Limbo. This is achieved largely through a masterful layering of vocal arrangements and a relentless willingness to explore. Grab your copy of In Limbo from Carpark Records. Stream it in its entirety below.
Written by Rob Peoni
Timing is a strange beast. As I was finishing up today’s post on TEEN’S Rumblette Mix Tape, somewhere in another part of the internet, Stereogum was releasing a video for the band’s new single “Electric.” The track is an early glimpse at their debut album In Limbo, due to drop on Carpark Records on August 28. The video, directed by Sam Fleischner, features the band in an homage to 60s-era psychedelic gogo-girls, popularly spoofed by Austin Powers’ “fembots.” Fleischner is the filmmaker behind Wah Do Dem, the award-winning, feature-length “slacker’s odyssey” starring Norah Jones. The video pairs well with TEEN’s hypnotic, hook-driven vocals on “Electric.” Even the video’s lighting mimics the prism-like design of In Limbo‘s cover art. Enjoy today’s TEEN two-fer, and grab a free download of the track below.
Written by Rob Peoni