Brooklyn four piece Teen Body return after three years with the release of their sophomore album Dreamo. The title is a reference to a friend’s description of their sound as dream pop and emo and while the lyrics here can be emotional at times, emo is not a genre that immediately springs to mind when describing their sound. The band themselves cite Slowdive and Galaxie 500 as influences and that comes across in the tone of the music, but Teen Body often take a more upbeat and melodic approach than those bands and rely less on mood and atmosphere then their musical heroes. That being said, since their debut Get Home Safe the band have emphasized the dream pop side of their sound a bit more over Dreamo‘s brief eight song set.
Lead off song “Fell Off” sets the tone for most of the album. Sunny melodies juxtaposed with singer Shannon Lee‘s crooning lyrics about failure and feeling lonely. There’s a gloomy atmosphere reminiscent of 80’s The Cure and like that band there’s plenty of hooks for the listener to latch on to. “Act Yr Age” rides an infectious bass groove that provides the album’s most danceable moment. It’s like the lovechild of Slowdive and The Police which admittedly sounds awkward, but Teen Body brilliantly blend the groove with ethereal atmosphere to great effect. Lee’s lyrics here seem deliberately vague, but have some cool imagery even if it’s hard to tell what it’s all about. Calming waves introduce the “Ballad of Tomboy Jerry“, a sparse song a first anchored by Lee‘s vocals which are silky yet forceful. As more instruments join it becomes a more shambolic affair and more of an anthem than a ballad. Bassist Xela French takes a turn singing on the following song “The Draag“. The post punk beat and shimmering guitar riffs are certainly pleasant enough, but it’s hard not to miss Shannon‘s singing here after the previous song. Even the furious drumming and distorted guitars at the end seem tame by comparison. The cheery single “Validation” is next up featuring sprightly interlocking guitars and boy/girl vocals singing in unison which at times creates a singular androgynous voice. Xela French has sited Alvvays as an inspiration for this song and likewise they strike the right balance between indie pop and shoegaze with a chorus that almost pleads for you to sing along. The title track “Dreamo” is a big change in pace and eases you into a slow burning shoegaze ballad.
Drowsy keyboards float around lazily strummed guitars as Lee and French trade verses. The band take their time and know when to give the song enough space to breathe, then just when you think you have them figured out they turn up the tempo for the last minute and a half as if it were a completely different song. On “Dead Drop” Xela French meditates on fate and religion, but underneath the serene vocals there’s a slightly sinister distorted guitar reminding us such things aren’t always peaceful. This theme is reinforced as French and Lee chant “we can’t all have good lives, but we got good lives“. It’s another very good song that I thought would’ve benefited from more of Lee singing, especially on the higher notes that seem on the edge of being falsetto for French. It can sound charming on some of Teen Body‘s more quirky moments but not as much on “Dead Drop‘s” more serious vibe. The final song “Other Places Pt. 2” is a sequel to a song from their 2016 debut but is much more adventurous in production and arrangement than the original. Beginning with gentle electronic flourishes, the song has an expansive feel that’s echoed by Lee singing “you’re still somewhere very distant“. A spoken word section fills the bridge which is actually a 20yr old guided meditation French‘s mother had narrated which segues into a sanguine instrumental that closes out the album. Although it’s a brief eight songs, Teen Body showcase a lot of growth and ambition on their sophomore release. Like the best records, Dreamo will entice you in with its catchy singles but has a lot more to offer with no room left for filler.
Highlights: Validation, Dreamo , Act Yr Age
For Fans Of: Beach Fossils, Diiv, Chastity Belt