, September 11th, 2012 01:45
Teengirl Fantasy's debut album 7AM was a pleasingly hazy concoction of house and R&B, that could easily be filed under all sorts of voguish but somewhat disreputable labels; hipster house, chillwave, hypanagoic pop etc. Most of these labels fit, and you could have an indulgent critical theory field day in examining Teengirl Fantasy's relationship with memory and nostalgia if you're so inclined, (though a wanky theoretical analysis of the sort can be applied to just about anything, from modernity's relationship to American breakfast cereals, to a gendered post-structuralist critique of Boris Johnson's hair.) In any case 7AM was a solid album that was its best when it eschewed its admittedly serene meandering for more immediate and vicarious pleasures. This was particularly so on 'Dancing In Slow Motion' (featuring Shannon Fuchess of Light Asylum), which is exactly the sort of backwards-looking but euphorically epic pop song that you could imagine Buffalo Bill getting his horrifying tuck-and pose, human skin wearing kicks to.
New album Tracer finds the Brooklyn duo largely blowing away the hazy cobwebs for a more lucid and techno indebted sound (there's plenty of flute action going on here). In addition they've followed on from the excellence of 'Dancing In Slow Motion' by abandoning sampling and roping in numerous high profile vocal contributors, including Panda Bear and Laurel Halo, who both give out satisfactory performances. It's certainly the sound of technical progression, and of the group becoming more creatively ambitious, but at the same time it isn't necessarily always an improvement on the simpler, but more enjoyable, obfuscation of 7AM.
There's certainly more to sink your teeth into this time around, but on initial listen it appears that they've mistaken simple clutter for gaudy over saturated Rustie like maximalism, indeed the Rustie inspiration is particularly evident on first single 'EFX'. At times it all feels a little too self-conscious in its grasping at experimental complexity, but given enough time some highlights begin to emerge. The flute assisted oomf of 'Eternal' has some real propulsive heft to it, and the piano heavy crescendo of 'End' feels soothingly vast. Though taken as a whole the album can feel like a not overly painful, but still tiring endurance test.
One clear highlight is the Romanthony-featuring 'Do It'. It might be little too knowing in its brash stupidity, but it's a wonderfully gauche stormer with real kick to it, that proves a refreshing change of pace after the twitchy wandering that precedes it. It's aided in no small part by Romanthony, who at this point is probably mostly known as that bloke who sang on that weirdly timeless Daft Punk album. Lyrically it's completely inane, but that's beside the point, really Romanthony could sing out the contents of a phone book over the ticking of a metronome, and it be enough to get sweaty beads of serotonin to start dripping out of your eyeballs. It's another clear example of Teengirl Fantasy being at their best when they're at their most direct.
It's ultimately a solid enough album, but one that's difficult to love, there are moments where it soars, but just as often it falls flat on its face in its attempts at heady depth. Tracer is just trying just a little too hard, and ultimately nothing here is on par with the highlights of 7AM. Still though, the members of Teengirl Fantasy are barely out of University, and the album is filled with the promise of not quite fulfilled potential, so there's still plenty of time yet for them to dazzle with more Buffalo Bill approved pop gems.