Since their start a little over five years ago, TEEN have already managed to establish themselves as constant experimenters. Their specialty has always been pop, no question, but with each new release, the Brooklyn-via-Nova Scotia foursome manage to surprise listeners with starkly distinct approaches—their full-length debut leaned into a garage and psych aesthetic, while their second turned a 180 towards post-millennial R&B. So, is it a surprise or no surprise at all that their third full-length, Love Yes, sees the girls flipping the script yet again?
Comparing the three albums’ covers makes for an interesting exercise here: their first was a kaleidoscopic though subdued, dark, and abstract illustration, and their second featured a pair of multicolored hands, poised as though about to conjure some magic but stopping just short of it. Love Yes’ album art, by contrast, tells a very different story—it’s a photo of the four band members, swathed in a hazy, bright red glow, looking both glamorous and all-business. It’s the perfect shot of them as a pop act, in the spotlight yet still somehow lurking.
The music within feels similarly more fitting for TEEN than much of their past output. It’s art pop through and through, offering tracks that are as cerebral and eccentric as they are catchy. Bands like Sparks, XTC, and Devo come to mind, as do classic girl groups like The Shangri-Las and modern electropop acts like Robyn. Take the songs “All About Us” and “Free Time,” for example—both keenly combine sweet (though sometimes witchy), layered vocal harmonies with sharp instrumental pivots and plinking, retrofuturistic details. Lead singer Teeny Lieberson serves as the anchor to all other elements, guiding band members Katherine and Lizzie Lieberson and Boshra AlSaadi, and us, through rhythmic surprises and unexpected bridges.
It’s clear that TEEN are a group of overachievers, and at times, they verge on self-indulgent in allowing for a lot of ideas to get crammed into each four-minute track. But if you ask me, this is what differentiates them—their ambition and confidence shines through with each step, though this could also be attributed to the band’s decision to record the entire album live, without multi-tracking. Their lyrics tackle issues like Nice Guy syndrome and our youth-obsessed culture without ever getting in the way of the music. Once you get acquainted with their songs, they become increasingly addictive; the sinuous, radiating “Gone for Good” is, for now, my personal favorite.
From start to finish, Love Yes is detailed, lush, angular, and TEEN’s strongest statement yet. Their songs are like puzzles that you can dance and sing along to. Though the band have tried on a lot of hats in their short career, without a doubt, this one fits them best.