TEEN In Limbo

[Carpark; 2012]

Styles: synth pop, girl group pop, synth psych
Others: Here We Go Magic, Grimes, Cults, TV on the Radio

If TEEN has made it onto your radar by now, it’s probably due to the band’s combination of brand-name clout and of-the-moment aesthetics. Teeny Lieberson, former keyboardist of Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic, strikes out on her own for this album, bringing her two sisters and close friend Jane Herships along for the ride. The addition of producer Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3) makes this a neat, bloggable package.

From a distance, In Limbo appears to be your standard summer record. With its jangly keyboard loops and neon synth wash, album opener “Better” was made to be blasted at hazy backyard barbecues. “Come Back” shifts gears ever so slightly with a “Tequila-esque” hook and bossa nova backbeat, but the end result is every bit as breezy. Even the barbiturate heartbreak ballad “Charlie” keeps the chill vibes rolling. It’s not until you get into some of the record’s deeper cuts that its other face begins to reveal itself. The shimmering drone of the nearly six-minute “Huh” swings by to kick sand in your face, just when you were getting up the nerve to holler at that bodacious beach babe/hunk you’ve been trading glances with all afternoon. From there, In Limbo takes a sharp turn into more abstract territory that is, at times, not too removed from the synthotropic fever dreams of Maria Minerva.

I admire the boldness of the album’s sequencing more than I admire any of its individual tracks. That willingness to harsh a summer sun buzz bespeaks a confident playfulness that deserves a tip of the hat. Other than that hint of an edge, though, the spacier numbers don’t contribute much more. Maybe that’s due to the album’s unnaturally flat production values. To counter the sonic compression, our friends over at Pop Matters recommend cranking up the volume until “the drums sound normal,” but frankly there’s nothing here worth the accompanying hearing loss (especially not when there’s a new Swans album to punish our eardrums with).

Aside from the undeniably catchy “Better,” the best thing In Limbo has going for it is outlier “Electric.” It’s a tense, snarling exercise in post-punk cynicism. Although, if I’m being honest, its chief virtue is that the last half of the song reminds me of the denouement of TV On The Radio’s uber-single “Wolf Like Me.” Still, it’s an interesting detour in an album that, for all its shortcomings, still follows a respectably crooked path.

Links: TEEN - Carpark

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