- Start: 22 June 2018 8:00 pm
TEEN’s second album, 2014’s The Way and Color, was a stunning creative breakthrough. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson’s voice is starkly highlighted, but the whole record is a conversation between her; Katherine Lieberson’s crafty, minimalist drumming; Boshra AlSaadi’s lithe, sinuous bass lines; and Lizzie Lieberson’s irresistible synth hooks. Now the group is back with its strongest release to date: the third full-length of their discography, Love Yes.
Born out of a creative process that included a dismal winter workshopping in Woodstock, a writing renaissance for lead-singer Teeny Lieberson in Kentucky, and a triumphant return to home in Nova Scotia to record, Love Yes is a lush, bold new creation that builds upon the group’s previous efforts and takes off.
On the album cover, the quartet is bejeweled in crystals and bathed in Venusian red. This red is the color of vitality and pulsing life—unmistakable traits of Love Yes. It is the iconic red of Dorothy’s slippers and Eve’s apple—potent with society’s tales and notions of innocence lost. In Love Yes, something else more mysterious and tender is gained.
TEEN was founded in 2010 by lead-singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson (Here We Go Magic). She self-recorded and self-released the beguiling lo-fi Little Doods LP the following year, then formed a band that included sisters Katherine and Lizzie, and signed to Carpark for 2012’s In Limbo. Produced by Sonic Boom (Spectrum, Spacemen 3), In Limbo encompasses everything in between sprawling, ethereal ballads and trancey but kinetic pop. Rolling Stone listed its opening track “Better” as one of the “50 Best Songs of 2012.” The Carolina EP followed in 2013 and was even more varied and accomplished; the band was growing by breathtaking leaps and bounds. TEEN’s second full-length, The Way and Color, mixes the band’s melodic psych with the sound of post-millennial R&B. The LP has its share of darkness—fear, regret, and loss are all in the picture—but it’s always redeemed by the sheer soulfulness and powerful ingenuity of the music. The album is a reflection on the aggressive times we live in, one that often lacks selflessness. TEEN’s response is one that uplifts and brings a sense of happiness and joy. Love Yes continues this communication, this time exploring the disharmony and empowerment that both sexuality and spirituality can create within the modern woman’s psyche. Universal ideas of loyalty, pleasure, purity, power, aging, and love are confronted with a knowable specificity. There is a quality of wholesomeness, but also an edge—a kind of wise anger and electricity.
Swimmers may be Miles Francis’s debut, but it’s clear there’s something in the water. Miles Francis is not your typical debut artist, and Swimmers is not your typical debut.
Swimmers arrives both as a 5-song EP and a 25-minute companion short film. Replete with meticulous and supremely catchy songs, paired with stunningly serene visual imagery, Swimmers is clear proof that Miles knows what he’s doing. In the songs, nothing is looped and there’s no computer magic filling in missing lines. Swimmers is pop music with an edge. In “Take It,” for example, a bouncing syncopated synth bass powers through lyrics about false hope. Swimmers is introspective, but it’s not sad: “Complex” sets a graceful, melancholy chorus over an off-kilter static-laden beat. It’s indie rock with an R&B vocabulary, like in “You’re a Star,” which juxtaposes a dancey drum pattern with a grungy bass line and hushed vocals.
Miles collaborated with filmmaker Charles Billot to create an eerily abstract yet intensely real visual world for the songs to live in. Swimmers [film] is an honest exhibition of the emotions found in the music, while leaving the door open for the viewers’ own interpretations – like water, Swimmers takes the shape of its holder.
Miles has learned from the best, and it shows. Since he started playing – first the drums at 6, then guitar, bass, keyboards, other percussion, anything he could get his hands on – he’s been an eager and diligent student. He spent countless hours in his childhood basement dissecting Prince’s guitar parts, learning David Byrne’s vocal phrasing, recreating Dilla beats, meditating on Fela Kuti basslines, and studying Bowie’s chord progressions. As a working musician, Miles has collaborated and performed with The Roots, tUnEyArDs, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Action Bronson, Allen Toussaint, Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and many others; toured the world with Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Antibalas and EMEFE; and appeared on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with David Letterman. All before the age of 26, too.
But Swimmers is also honest and genuine, the capturing of a particular period in a young person’s life. The EP was written in the back of a tour van and various hotel rooms and recorded by Miles alone in his basement studio. “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. You hear this particularly in the quiet but cathartic “Overthink”, the song that convinced Miles that Swimmers should leave the basement and live in the world. “‘Overthink’ is about telling yourself to relax, adapt to change, and not worry so much that it ruins the moment,” he explains.
Swimmers has plenty of hooks, but sometimes they’re in unexpected places. It’s smart, but not cocky. It’s confident but not brash. It pushes against the edge, but it doesn’t puncture. These are songs from someone who knows what he wants to say, how to say it, and perhaps most importantly, how to keep you listening. And you’ll definitely want to keep listening.
HNRY FLWR is an icon, a band, a brand– gold clad, star-eyed and philosophically sincere. But the occult chill-wave persona comes from humble and earnest beginnings. Born into a cult in Iowa, HNRY FLWR grew up meditating and moving around the world with a psychic mother who claims to remember being born. And there is something strangely meditative about the lyrical dream pop they create as a band in Brooklyn, NY. With 40+ North American shows in 2017 alone, and an increasing local buzz in New York City, it’s no surprise they were added to Deli Magazine’s Best Emerging NYC Psych list.
The world is an increasingly complex place and HNRY FLWR has had a stand out year despite the project’s own complex nature. Their “brilliant” (GoldFlakePaint) debut EP, FLOWERAMA, was released in the summer of 2017 on Paper Garden Records and quickly began going viral on Spotify with over 500,000 streams. The “melodic, danceable, and devastating” (Alt Citizen) EP was produced by David Groener Jr, (who has worked with The National, Glen Hansard, and more). The HNRY FLWR band has evolved and transformed with members of Foxygen, A Place to Bury Strangers and The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger all playing with HNRY FLWR both in the studio and live.$8 /21+