TEEN In Limbo(Carpark) Buy it from Insound
With the independent music scene’s current youthful, nostalgia driven economy, it may come to a surprise to some that the all-female dream-pop group TEEN, which formed back in 2011 and are now readying their debut full-length In Limbo, derive their name not from the wonders of adolescence, but from the namesake of the group’s main singer-songwriter, Teeny Lieberson, who’s also known for her work as keyboardist for Here We Go Magic. This isn’t to imply, however, that TEEN acts as a solo-project. Despite the group donning the name of its key member, TEEN operates mainly as a full-fledged band with its own purpose, and with a new band comes new territory to explore. Much like Lieberson’s previous gig, TEEN creates dreamy, varied, highly nuanced indie pop that more often unfurls slowly than it does pop. However, while Magic tends to use these dreamy flourishes more as little details to enhance more rigidly defined songs, TEEN are more willing to let their songs wash away in the flood, with many of the tracks on In Limbo stretching and blurring to near soundscapes as remnants of song twinkle like specks of light in a vast ocean.
Dream pop can often be considered a pretty lazy and unmotivated genre by many (as almost anything soaked in enough reverb can typically generate the sound and emotions desired), but with In Limbo’s beautiful production and strong, yet subtle attention to detail, TEEN prove that they take sounding dreamy very seriously. This is not to say that the album is shy of echoing guitars, but the group relies less on thick walls of reverb then they do on meticulously-placed guitar and keyboard flourishes that are introduced at just the right moment to transport any track to a state of euphoria. The instrumentation is pretty standard-issue here for a dream-pop group, but the dense production makes these basic elements stretch well-past their normal capabilities, as guitar, bass, and a varied arsenal of synth sounds dance around each other before converging through the 5-6 minute track lengths. The only element that ever seems to have trouble with this are the more dry-sounding vocals, which work well for some of the more direct, pop-oriented tracks, but can unpleasantly stick out once the songs enter soundscape territory.
Despite TEEN’s expertise in generating woozy soundscapes, In Limbo acts not as one large sonic blur, but eleven unique tracks that stand well on their own but are ultimately united by the albums production qualities and dreamy agenda. Though much of the album safely resides in prettier, more serene territory, songs occasionally find themselves in dark and brooding places, and these moments are occasionally even juxtaposed right beside each other to keep the listener on their toes. For instance, the daydream-esque title track is mirrored by the more alert and jarring synth drones of Sleep is Noise, and the hypnotically pristine Unable is pitted against the more urgent, stomping churn of Why Why Why. TEEN also display an interest in incorporating various music styles and genres into their already well-defined sound through some of the albums stronger tracks. The song Charlie, for instance, is built up as a soulful, romantic R&B ballad that is raised to such towering heights you can barely recognize it by the songs end. Better, the albums wonderful opening track, feels almost like a tribute to twinkling twee pop of the past, yet manages to grow much grander in scope than twee’s typical parameters, with the tracks pulsing rhythm and triumphantly repeated chorus constantly raising the song skyward. Through these tracks, TEEN manages to keep a strong sense of identity without being short on variety.
Surprisingly enough, however, the albums strongest moment also happens to be the one least worried about transporting the listener to dream world and instead demands their attention through new methods. Electric, which is undoubtedly the most focused and pop-oriented track in structure, is actually much darker and more pervasive than anything else seen throughout In Limbo, and owes itself more to post punk than it does dream pop. The first half of the track is characterized by an urgent, steady bass line, metallic synths and guitars, and vocals which are as foreboding as they are enticing, but it’s the songs massive, catchy, and dare I say “electrifying” chorus introduced in the second half that gives the song, and the album as a whole, a necessary blast of vitality with each call of “Patrick!” Though it still abides by the same nuanced production as seen through the rest of the album, Electric is pure standout in its song craft and life affirming grandeur, and it’s truly a shame that there aren’t really any more moments throughout the album like this.
Sadly, without any more fully concise songs like Electric to round out the rest of the album, the music on In Limbodoes begin to drag on a bit once you get into the albums later tracks, making a full listen through a bit tough by the time you get to track nine or ten. The bands dedication to featuring fully fleshed out dreamscapes on nearly every track can be a lot to chew on when attempting to handle it all at once, keeping the album just shy of being truly great. Despite this, however, TEEN still manage to come out strong and fully formed on their debut, with In Limbo proving to be the working man’s take on dream pop. In Limbo might entice listeners to gaze up at the stars in euphoria, but be rest assured that, in the meantime, TEEN will be hard at work supplying the light show.27 August, 2012 - 09:20 — Peter Quinton