Lush, dreamy pop has historically inhabited lush, dreamy places. Think “I Feel Love” in New York City or “Smooth Operator” in the UK. The lights, the beats, the cooing vocalist — these songs evoke the glamorous side of life, even if the club isn’t on the glamorous side of town.
Both of those songs inform the experimental ambience of Tracer, Teengirl Fantasy’s sultry second album comprising of all original material. The layered pop samples from their debut LP 7AM are absent, but the duo still builds from the past — sculpting something both innovative and vaguely familiar. Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss produce material indebted to R&B and extended dance floor jams, as on the Romanthony-assisted “Do It”. The subdued hook is stretched out like a distant cousin of the dub-step drop before unraveling straight into the next song, “Timeline”.
“Mist of Time” is more ambiguous. Playfully arranged, the jingling synth could have fallen straight from Madonna’s “Lucky Star”. Teengirl Fantasy, though, replaces Madonna and her heavy drums with soft percussion and Laurel Halo, a fellow Brooklyn electronic artist, who lends her voice to a sea of divergent rhythms.
Teengirl Fantasy’s interpretation of dance-pop through a technical EDM filter recalls Sonic Youth’s re-interpretation of hardcore punk through indie rock. Like Daydream Nation, Tracer has impressive scope, from the druggy “EFX”, with Kelela’s smooth vocals over odd syncopation, to the piano/panpipe flirtation of “End”. And this is definitely an album for those who like their wind instruments. Combined with “Inca” and “Eternal”, Tracer packs more panpipe love in one listen than an entire Polynesian Island resort. The lush production values of Tracer also evoke surreal, exotic locales. These locales aren’t the bright, bleary world of Donna Summer or Sade, though — they’re the pop-oriented sound draws from areas colored by industrial gray and youth in decay.
Takahashi and Weiss met as undergrads at the Oberlin College conservatory before moving to Brooklyn to pursue music. If that path sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same genesis as another Oberlin alumnus project: HBO’s Girls. In fact, Girls writer/director Lena Dunham only graduated a couple years ahead of Takahashi and Weiss. If Girls represents the Titanic-bound tragedy of being a 20-something in New York City, then Teengirl Fantasy are like the musicians who continue to play, even as the ship verges on vertical.
So, here’s to a future remix of “My Heart Will Go On”. That flute solo is full of Teengirl Fantasy potential, and if Tracer is any indication, these guys have all the vision, humor, and skill to “Do It” well.
Essential Tracks: “Mist of Time”, “EFX”