Music Reviews

Teengirl Fantasy Tracer

(R&S / True Panther) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

I’m going to risk sounding like a grumpy old man by saying that a good amount of today’s EDM artists, including those who have been selling out festivals all over the world, are setting a bad example for artists in the genre by staying stuck to their laptops like it was a Chinese finger trap. I’m not disputing the legitimacy of using laptops to create interesting music, but it seems as though many artists are relying on the convenience of the medium a little too much. After hearing countless processed keyboard lines, recycled samples, and bass drops over the past few years, you begin to feel as though you’ve heard the entirety of FL Studio’s sound catalog at this point, and though it does seem like the masses are ready to except this, what with the recent boom of EDM producers becoming pop stars, there have been many emerging artists who are fighting to preserve the warm analog sound of the genres past.

This is not to say that we should always be impressed whenever an electronic artist opts for vintage synthesizers over the latest Apple product, but it’s understandable why these artists looking for a more visceral and organic sound might opt for the former. Since 2009, Teengirl Fantasy have been creating danceable yet atmospheric electronic music with these goals in mind, as they would prefer performing hunched over a tangled mess of cables than pressing a button on a MacBook. On Tracer, the group’s second album, Teengirl Fantasy take this idea further leave behind the R&B samples from their previous album, 7AM, and go for a fully live, fully analog approach to their dreamy dance-scapes, creating a living, breathing dance album that borrows from various electronic genres both pop and experimental in nature. Unfortunately, the albums ultimate lack of personality and variety in song craft holds the overall experience back from being truly captivating.

Through the albums ten tracks, Teengirl Fantasy’s Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss prove to be scholars of the broad scope and history of electronic music, bringing together various influences from both the EDM and IDM spectrum to create a sound that feels both classic and modern in its approach. Nearly every track on the album could be considered danceable to some extent, leaning more towards the days of early techno music rather than modern EDM, but these songs are given much more weight through a wide array of lush synth flourishes which work both above and below the tracks surfaces. These flourishes, which range from aqueous drones to tribal woodwinds, help turn what could be simple dance songs into atmospheric pieces that could successfully fill any space it’s brought into. However, it occasionally feels as though there is too much going for one track, with sounds piling on top of one another to the point where it feels a bit cluttered. This can, in effect, rob some songs of their own unique identity, and many songs as a result end up just blurring together.

Unlike 7AM, which was largely built around subtle R&B vocal samples, Teengirl Fantasy decide to go largely anti-sample on Tracer by incorporating guest vocals through a few of the albums tracks. These vocal spots tend to accomplish different things depending on the song there in, and with varying degrees of success. While the Panda Bear fronted Pyjama and the Laurel Halo voiced Mist of Time successfully utilize these vocals for atmospheric purposes, both EFX and Do It, which act more as the albums standout pop tracks, employ powerhouse vocals from R&B vocalist Kelela and Daft Punk associate Romanthony (respectively) to bring in the bombast. Though these vocals work relatively well in their respected songs, they do feel a bit out of place in regards to the rest of the album, with the Romanthony track in particular coming off as a bit cheesy and out of nowhere.

Even though these guest vocal spots do help the songs that they’re in slightly stand out, for better or worse, the biggest problem with Tracer is how little else does manage to truly stand out through the albums ten tracks. Though Takahashi and Weiss show a deep admiration for the electronic sounds they explore, their take here often feel very textbook in its execution, as they successfully incorporate various electronic genres while never truly making them their own. There are also very few tracks on the album, including those with vocals, that attempt to pack a strong emotional punch, with much of the album feeling like it exists on a flat, singular emotional plane. The only track that really defies this is End, where forlorn synth moans and a sparse-yet-effective piano line help the track stand out as one of the albums most sincerely penetrating moments. Most of the other tracks seem more formulaic in their approach to achieve something similar, as songs tend to build during their duration but never seem to reach to new territory before settling not far from where they began.

Tracer certainly makes a good attempt at being a strong electronic album, and there is still plenty of content hear for big fans of both EDM and IDM music to enjoy. Unfortunately, Teengirl Fantasy still needs to learn how to incorporate more of themselves into their music. Even though there is definitely an organic sense to their music, it still has ways to go if it wishes to grow into a fully developed life form.