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teen in limbo

Album Review: Teen – In Limbo

Prepare to be swept away. The hazy, swirling strains of TEEN’s debut album In Limbo, with its psychedelic soundscapes, infectious rhythms ethereal vocals, is completely irresistible.

Formed of Here We Go Magic keyboardist Teeny Lieberson alongside her sisters and friends, TEEN takes the luscious psychedelia of HWGM and heaps on the synth, adds lo-fi all-female vocals and some ‘60s drumbeats to create a sound that oscillates between something akin to a tripped-out Phil Spektor girl group and a darkly menacing dream world.

‘Better’, the album’s opener and lead single, is an eerie but entrancing track, with driving bass, droning piano, biting synth hooks and filled with a raucous confidence. The track immediately serves up a fair representation of what TEEN can achieve: songs that are simultaneously intense and alluring but also filled with dynamic rhythm, sing-along moments and indelible hooks that will have you craving more – and that makes for something that is probably neigh on pop genius. ‘Electric’ is another stand out moment, when TEEN use their sumptuous vocal harmonies above rich layers of synth, combined with beat that you cannot resist to make music that is delightfully dirty and completely addictive.

In Limbo is not just big tune after big tune, however. The album’s title track and ‘Unable’ create spaces where you easily can feel suspended from time, space, life – all of those little, inconsequential things.  ‘Huh’ does the same – you could just drift away on its languorous bass line. But not every track feels like a hippy-dippy, new-age outer body experience; ‘Sleep is Noise’, from the opening that sounds like you are being sucked backwards through a vacuum cleaner, to the pounding regular kick drum, is the perfect soundtrack for that slightly disorientated feeling of staring into a computer screen at 2am on a caffeine buzz gone wrong. An experience to which pretty much everybody can relate.

Sometimes TEEN head for a more nostalgic feel, with tracks like ‘Come Back’ being more reminiscent at times of early 1960s pop, particularly with a crowd of female vocalists lamenting in harmony “sitting on my door step, each and every day, wondering when you’re coming back home”.  And ‘Charlie’’s waltz-time and sweeping vocals has the emotion of a French chanson, or perhaps a big soul ballad, recast into a slowly mounting cascade of tumbling synth. Delicious.

TEEN have done a sterling job of creating an album that hangs together well as whole, being cohesive enough to flow from track to track (as if they had put a bit of thought into it, tried a bit, you know?) without it feeling too much like a dreary slog through droning psychedelia that should only be listened to while lying on the floor, staring into space, next to a red lamp. In Limbo feels intelligent and original without having sacrificed pop sensibilities in favour of pretentiousness. Well done, ladies – this one’s a real winner.

-Katherine Travers

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