At the risk of sounding cynical this Valentine’s weekend, I’ve long agreed with musical philosopher Brian Eno that popular music already has produced so many love songs—both pro and con—that no one ever needs to write another. But Love Yes, the third album from the Brooklyn-based shoegazer-funk, space-prog, synth-pop quartet Teen, is strong enough to make anyone reconsider that hard line.
Formed in 2010 by singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson, Teen is largely a familiar affair: In addition to bassist Boshra AlSaadi, the group includes Teeny’s sisters Katherine on drums and Lizzie on synths. The Liebersons grew up partly in isolated Nova Scotia, where they were surrounded by music: Father Peter, who died in 2011, was a well-known classical composer inspired by Buddhism. His daughters gravitated to different sounds, including those of the ethereal shoegazer movement of the early ’90s. (They turned to an avatar of that era’s psychedelic strangeness, Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, to produce their 2012 album In Limbo.) But their intoxicating brew includes way too many other surprising ingredients—from Prince-like dance-funk (“Free Time”) to early ’80s New Wave dance-pop (“Gone for Good,” “Example”), and from Sinead O’Connor balladry (“Another Man’s Woman”) to sounds bordering on vintage progressive rock (“Please,” “Love Yes”)—to confine them to any genre besides their own.
Then we have the lyrics. Like Savages on Adore Life, Teen examines love in all its messiness—“fear, regret, and loss are all in the picture,” they state in their bio—but ultimately the soul and joy of the music combine to underscore the central message that the ideal is worth striving for, however fleeting it may prove to be. “It wasn’t all about us/It was only about you and me this one time,” Teeny sings in “All About Us.” But she certainly hasn’t given up hope.
The comparison to Savages isn’t made lightly, by the way. Love Yes is the second masterpiece about the complications of love so far in 2016—and it’s only Valentine’s Day.
Teen, Love Yes (Carpark)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.