Teen: In Limbo

Other than the fact that they’re a bunch of cute girls with a suitably high level of cute-girl energy, Teen isn’t the sort of band I typically get into. They’re not rapping about sex and money; they’re not just turning knobs on analog synths or chopping up bits of field recordings; they’re not sampling obscure 78s; they’re not playing 24 saxophones at once; they’re not making their guitars sound like vacuum cleaners; they’re not really lo-fi, but they’re certainly not hi-fi; they’re neither terribly weird nor completely normal. They’re somewhere in between. And, if you know me, you know that I tend to run screaming from that sort of thing. But there’s something about Teen’s sound, despite the fairly straightforward instrumentation (guitars, drums, keys, voices, percussion) that keeps me coming back.

That, by itself, is probably reason enough to buy the record, but I remain conflicted.

At times, I’m reminded of Gary War (which is weird); at other times, I’m reminded of Mazzy Star (which isn’t weird at all, except in relation to Gary War). Thoughts of Vivian Girls (a favorite of mine) make a lot more sense, except that, aside from the girl thing, Teen isn’t really like Vivian Girls. Teen rely much more on synths than on guitars, and, while Vivian Girls tend to keep things moving at a quick, punk-infused pace, Teen seem perfectly happy stretching things out, slowing things down, creating space, and getting downright psychedelic about it.

Hmm. Then again, there is that sort of 1960s garage thing going on in Teen’s sound: the boom-bap-boom-bap-boom-bap-bap beat of “Electric,” for instance. But that only lasts for a few moments before the band turns into Talking Heads. And then there’s that Gary War thing again. And then is that Interpol I hear? Really? Interpol? What’s going on here, exactly?

Does it matter? Maybe it’s the special combination of these elements—Teen’s way of fusing different sounds, influences, and ideas—that keeps me interested and wanting more. Thank you: I'm no longer conflicted.

Teen’s debut, In Limbo, is out today on Carpark Records. (Hmm, maybe I should spend some time pondering that album title, or maybe I should just buy the record and sing along.)

Here’s the video for “Electric.”

And here’s a segment Teen did for Audyssey’s cool Neighborhood series.

And, if you’re still curious, you can stream the entire album here.

But we'd much rather have you stick around stereophile.com and stream Teen using the little widget below while you read about power amps and stuff.

deckeda's picture

But from the 3 songs I've listened to so far, none posses a melody that engages me to succeed.

Droning and repetiveness do allow for whatever else interesting to poke though at times, so maybe that's what's kept you going for this. But memorable ... this is not.

deckeda's picture

Has a good balance of bouncy rhythm vs. driving "purpose" that I won't call monotonous.

dalethorn's picture

I got into girl groups (performed by, recorded by, managed by girls) in a big way in 1995 when NoLife opened on Santa Monica blvd. in Hollywood. They had everything - loads of indie CD's, 7 and 10 inch indie vinyl, zines and more zines. Like going to heaven. Then Napster made it possible to find tons more after NoLife closed up. If a person, particularly a male, were to stumble across this (should be but isn't a) genre, I wouldn't expect them to relate to it in the way that most young people relate, emotionally, i.e. the "music of your generation" etc. Expecting the possibility of a rewarding musical experience from this kind of group, in the sense you might get that reward from a classic big-bucks production of Norah Jones - recorded by expert guys in a studio, just isn't realistic. It's a different world from typical hi-fi fare.