Although born from the splintering of Brooklyn band Here We Go Magic (the band is named for Kistina ‘Teeny’ Lieberman, former HWGM Keyboardist), Teen have a brand of psychedelic pop which not only extricates them from the shadow of Lieberman’s previous project, but which marks them as distinct from just about any other all-girl group out there.
For that matter, it marks them as distinct from pretty much any other group working at the moment, regardless of gender. But there is something particularly inspiring about a group of young women working with such uncompromising creativity. It was the sheer ballsy defiance of tracks like “Better” which made their debut LP In Limbo such compulsive listening. The Way and Color capitalises on that assertiveness and embeds it in every track.
Teen never seem to be drawn towards making structurally conventional pop – even though it is abundantly clear they could easily write three minute, hook-driven hits. The album’s opening track “Rose 4 U” starts with a bass riff that’s sheer brain velcro, but instead of driving it home for three minutes solid until you’re singing it in your sleep, Teen do things a bit differently. The track suddenly slows and swerves into a swell of vocal harmonies, ending with all the drama of a 70s prog-rock anthem. It’s bold. And it’s a pretty definitive statement that this album does not aim to please everyone. But that’s not really the point, is it?
The Way and Color is the confluence of some pretty diverse influences. “Voices” sounds almost akin to sound-art with its distorted, fractious soundscape, while the album as a whole has a subtle R&B inflection, thanks to their smooth vocals and the laid-back back-beats on tracks like “Sticky”. In Limbo felt at times like it was living up to its name far too well, clumsily melding genres and sounds in a kind of ecstatic experimentation. There is none of that here. Teen know exactly what they are doing.
Teen’s major achievement here is to continually play with convention and sound completely and utterly cogently whilst synthesising so many diverse atmospheres into one LP. “Tied Up and Tied Down” is a showcase of their overwhelming energy, leaving you lost in layers of shimmering synth, carried long by the spiralling bass line, dancing to the relentless beat of their drum. “Toi Toi Toi” on the other hand is an exercise in seduction – via the medium of multilingual puns and low, rolling synth, and “All the Same” has the texture of velvet, strewn with brass and rich layers of harmonies.
Every track here is distinct and complex. The Way and Color is not an album designed to blend into the background noise of your day. It really demands your time. It demands to be listened to.