Photo James Ryang
Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson named her band after herself, sort of, though in the vague Google-baffling manner of our time. The blank noun she saddled her sisters-and-friends pop group with does TEEN a disservice, implying much less personality than their debut, In Limbo, actually possesses. Lieberson, formerly of Brooklyn band Here We Go Magic, has a knack for writing songs that wobble precariously in place, but outweigh nervousness with fun. “Better” has a cocky charm to go with its crackling bounce. “I do it better than anybody else does,” might be a less than strictly accurate claim, but the little “Ha!” she punctuates repetitions with is charming. (Like a giggling, “Yeah, I said it!”) “Come Back” has a matter-of-fact sexuality to it, sort of conflicted about having “kissed too many men” yet refreshing for its lack of one-true-love pop cliché. TEEN sound best on “Electric,” which fondly recalls the early 00s post-punk revival with loose, deadpan vocals and a sturdy groove. Layers and repetitions are used for effect, but they aren’t the whole show.
In Limbo loses some energy as it moves into its second half. Even with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom brought in to mix and produce, the band’s swirling textures aren’t compelling enough to build extended drones on, and airy, semi-aimless ballads are an unfortunate result. (“Why Why Why” dodges that trap by playing nicely against an industrial crunch.) Still, there’s enough promise here to suggest that TEEN might just be going through an awkward phase.