TEEN – The Way and Color

written by: April 16, 2014
Album-art-for-The-Way-and-Color-by-TEEN Release Date: April 22, 2014


Brooklyn’s TEEN has followed up its 2012 debut, In Limbo, with a more fleshed-out, rhythmically diverse and in some ways less obvious record. The pretty, spacey pop appeal of its debut is still present on this second release, but the approach is more streamlined and impactful.

The Way and Color opens with a bouncing bassline that sounds pretty seriously informed by the recent St. Vincent/David Byrne collaboration Love This Giant. “Rose 4 U” builds from an electronic loop that whirs to life like a vestigial bone, a tonal leftover from a decommisioned arcade game.

That insistent gadgetry gives way to crystalline keys that distantly echo behind cresting and spiraling harmonies that showcase the angelic ability of the band’s harmonic machine. The four women who comprise TEEN are a vocal powerhouse.

Songs like “More Than I Ask For” exemplify the quartet’s pop precision. Lead vocalist Teeny Lieberson’s performance fluctuates around her swaying phrasing.

A chorus of “My my my my my my my my” walks down the notes with her, hand in hand. These qualities showcase TEEN evolving a more vocally-driven sound, not only structurally, but in the mix of their latest record.

On much of The Way and Color, the rhythm section secures the footing for the shifting, atmospheric keyboards. Sampled tones that overlay the percussion actually reinforce the clean and tailored feel of the album. TEEN’s sophomore effort sounds like it’s preserved under glass.

Moments like the verse-to-chorus exchange on “Breathe Low & Deep” keep the album from stagnating in its ambient scaffolding. The floor falls away and the words, “Breathe low and deep/Breathe low and deep”—sounding like helpful instructions and also a reminder directed at the self—permeate a brass-filled openness that’s colored with the same brush as some older Grizzly Bear tunes. A similar effect is heard on “Tied Up Tied Down,” when it picks up exhilaratingly following a brief, spacey repose partway through.

As TEEN composes its pieces, certain components, while interesting, do seem to be a tad scatterbrained. On “Sticky,” some of the cogs in the synthetic machine, tweaks and tics that form the fragile webbing of the song’s shelter, seem out of place, especially in light of the track’s powerful vocal performance, one that’s almost akin to an R&B flavoring.

TEEN excels in transforming certain off-putting shades of keyboard-driven electronic music into attractive and often more intellectual chunks while maintaining a casual listenability. There’s a richness to The Way and Color that is vivid enough to shine over any hiccups that might catch listeners off guard. TEEN has given listeners a genre-stitching treat that blooms as it’s pulled apart.

TEEN – The Way and Color tracklist:

  1. “Rose 4 U”
  2. “Not For Long”
  3. “Tied Up Tied Down”
  4. “Sticky”
  5. “Breathe Low & Deep”
  6. “Voices”
  7. “More Than I Ask For”
  8. “Toi Toi Toi”
  9. “Reconsider”
  10. “All the Same”