Former Here We Go Magic keyboardist Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson moved on to front her own project, and every detail in the TEEN bio seems tailor-made for home-brewed nostalgia. She’s got her sisters Katherine and Lizze on board, as well as long-time friend Jane Herships. The band name screams youthful heartbreak and fervor, and the rich synths and smoky vocals evoke John Hughes soundtracks. But the quartet’s debut LP, In Limbo, isn’t just ’80s posturing; the musical idiosyncrasies and thematic shifts propel this album rapidly past the expected and the easy.
The bullet point-ed group history may read like a paint by numbers replica taken off the seemingly endless conveyor built of female-fronted fuzz-rock of the last few years, but there’s nothing assembly line about In Limbo. When a track called “Come Back” would seem to be begging for the one and only to find his way back, Lieberson transforms it into an admission of kissing a lot of guys, begging one to come back because she simply doesn’t “want to sleep another night alone.” Even when they’re aping tight genre constrictions, there’s always some wiggle room. The ’60s pop balladry of “Charlie” finds haunted guitar depths (territory familiar to producer Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3), while the kitchen sink aux. percussion of “Better” stutters the pulse of a New Wave gem.
The angular pop of the opening half of the album fades into oozier territory. While this shift loses some of the fun of the twisted pop, it certainly makes up for it in psychedelic punch. The heavily trippy warps of sound help Lieberson’s almost Lou Reed-ian repetitions of the title of “Why Why Why” tumble off of the tongue. The track’s clacking percussion and swarming wall of guitars further that comparison. The Velvet-y lurch of the bass continues that connection, the track bubbling and smacking for nearly six minutes, Lieberson’s lost-angel vocals soaring over the top. If the pacing of the album hadn’t been so stratified, these later tracks would hold even more impact in the juxtaposition. There’s a little something for everyone on In Limbo, and all just a little off from what you’d expect. For a debut album, that’s a massive accomplishment.
Essential Tracks: “Boom”, “Come Back”, and “Why Why Why”