Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Carpark Records
The Way and Color was a promising album, in both senses of the word: it built on In Limbo's potential with heady songs about the first blush of love and lust. On Love Yes, TEEN deliver on those promises in unexpected ways, exploring the real-life consequences of romantic fantasies. Though the band's experimental mix of R&B, synth pop, and indie rock sounds almost as alluring as it did on The Way and Color, Love Yes' subject matter is often anything but.
Comprised of a trio of siblings and an honorary inductee into their sisterhood, TEEN are a band whose familial bonds have translated into a deep-seated musical chemistry. Their sisterly synergy has never been more audible however than on ‘Love Yes’, the record in which they polish off their art rock edges and instead take synchronised steps in a streamlined pop direction that boasts spectacular results. Whereas 2014’s ‘The Way and Colour’ emanated reservation with its collected lo-fi-meets-R&B vibes, ‘Love Yes’ whirrs to life in a more gung-ho and instantaneous fashion - parading glitzy analogue synths and vocal cadences like twirling batons from the opening bars of album opener ‘Tokyo’.
There is a certain expectation of aesthetics that comes with the story of a musician who wanders off into the woods, spending weeks holed up in a cabin clearing their head of all the songs that couldn’t push their way out when blocked in by society’s noise. It doesn’t have to be beard rock necessarily, but it’s probably not going to be so upbeat. Think of Justin Vernon traipsing off to northernmost Wisconsin to bring forth Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. From the dreamy drones of 2012's In Limbo to the space prog R&B of 2014's The Way and Color, TEEN has established themselves as a group unwilling to stay still. Based in Brooklyn and fronted by singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson--who is joined by her two sisters, drummer Katherine and keyboardist Lizzie, as well as bassist Boshra Al-Saadi--TEEN is a band that, like all great artists, is always eager to push the realm of what is considered conventional, while still maintaining an effortless appeal that will help them gain mainstream traction.
Its sharp pop sensibilities could fool you into thinking it's not quite as weird as it is, but don’t be tricked: Love Yes is away with the fairies and delightfully so. Teen's off-kilter oeuvre, fuelled as ever by the wayward fancies of lead singer Teeny Lieberson, gains extra purchase here via their strongest set of songs to date. The four-piece manage an airy, radio-friendly vibe but their synth sheen is just one facet of their beguiling endeavour.
Love Yes…those bold block letters on that garish, red-tinted cover certainly reek of the 1980s and, worryingly, those “We Are The World” global love-type clichéd messages come to mind, right? Well, you’d be half right anyway. Taking on yet another musical blueprint, TEEN’s third album works the ‘80s synthpop hard, tossing in turn of the decade (that’s the 80s to 90s, folks) R&B flavours, and shades of Prince’s rock/pop/R&B genre melding. The wrong assumption, however, would be thinking Love Yes is simply all join hands and love your brothers and sisters tripe.
Art-pop is probably a contradiction in terms and a pretty unhelpful label to put on any artist, but it seems to be the kind of realm Kristina ‘Teeny’ Lieberson finds herself lost in. Originally cutting her teeth playing keyboards with dreamy leftfield New York indie types Here We Go Magic, she teamed up with sisters Lizzie (keyboards, vocals) and Katherine (drums) back in 2010 (and latterly bassist Bohsra Al Saad) and conjured up a mix of all-girl harmonies and synthy melodies that screamed stylish, summer bliss. The obvious, lazy comparisons to Haim and Warpaint didn’t tell the whole story though and with Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember (Spaceman 3) as producer, debut album In Limbo (2012) had traces of garage psych weirdness and Krauty backbeats.
The short, punchy title to Brooklyn-based synth-pop quartet TEEN's third album says a lot about the group's music. Romance and optimism abound, but the name Love Yes fails to address the pervasive sense that, in their search of love — both physical and spiritual — TEEN aren't playing around. A more apt title would be Love Yes, Bullshit No.Many of TEEN's synth-pop peers tend to let their instruments do the heavy lifting, relegating the music's more human element — vocals and lyrics — follow suit ("synth" is right there in the genre's name, after all).
“Welcome to the Space Jam/ here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam.” Space is big big big, spinning forever away from our brains and their ability to comprehend it. It is cosmic, far out, a final frontier. Space comes after outer; space prefixes flight, travel, time, age. And space is atomic, the most exquisite portion of our humanity.
On the evidence of Love Yes, TEEN’s third album in four years, the Brooklyn quartet remain an intriguing proposition. Yet the genesis of this album was far from easy. They began by decamping to Woodstock in the middle of winter, but found inspiration was not forthcoming. Subsequently lead singer Kristina ‘Teeny’ Lieberson took herself away to a Kentucky cabin for three weeks.
Analog synthesizers are too often used as signifiers of styles gone by, blunt aural semiotics that yell at the listener: "Hey, remember the ’80s?!" TEEN's Love Yes is packed with 'em—nothing new for the Brooklyn quartet—but the album is more than just a repackaged relic. While there are synthpop flourishes and occasional sonic nods to the Human League or post-hiatus Roxy Music, Love Yes is an evolutionary step forward for the three Lieberson sisters—drummer Katherine, keyboardist Lizzie, and singer Teeny—along with bassist Boshra Al-Saadi. After experimenting with ’00s indie and R&B on their last couple of records, TEEN is starting to find their very own sound rather than bogging themselves down with referential collage.
If I may for just a moment, please allow me to commit a cardinal sin of music criticism: quoting a band’s press release. “TEEN’s new album, Love Yes,” reads the copy from Carpark Records, “explores the disharmony and empowerment that both sexuality and spirituality can create within the modern woman’s psyche.” I bring this up not to take a jab at Kristina Lieberson’s increasingly bold artistic outlet, but to point out how accurate of a statement it is. Despite a title that might seem overly optimistic to the untrained ear, Love Yes is that rare album that actually has a lot to say about its heady subject matter, lyrically living up to the lofty ambitions set by TEEN’s PR team.
On Love Yes, Brooklyn quartet TEEN have largely left behind the garage rock and psych influences of their earlier work, and a new focus on 80s synth-pop and new wave obscures most of their R&B references. The synths and electronic drums are really just ornamentation for the actual core of their sound, though: their idiosyncratic songwriting and the eerie beauty of the supernatural sibling harmonies by the three Lieberson sisters. Kristina "Teeny" Lieberson wrote much of the material on Love Yes at her mother's place in rural Kentucky, and the entire band also hid out in a cabin in Woodstock to work on writing.
How do you take your caustic observations and melancholy regrets? With a little cream, perhaps? If that's your preferred mix of tonal colors, "Love Yes" (Carpark), the third album from New York-via-Nova Scotia quartet Teen, should do nicely. The affirmation in the album title comes with a few caveats: Love is an ideal, but it's loaded with landmines. Yet the music doesn't come off as particularly gut-wrenching.