It is difficult to define where TEEN falls on the genre spectrum. Harmonious as they are experimental, their second album, The Way and Color, sounds like they recorded some conventional R&B vocals and then sent them to a gaggle of jazzy space robots for production tweaking. While frontwoman Teeny Lieberson’s voice may strike just the right balance of sultry and raspy, don’t expect this album to get you in that mood, exactly. The band—consisting of her sisters Kathleen on keyboard and Lizzie on drums, with Boshra AlSaadi on bass—counteract her seduction with galactic sonic blasts. Picture Erykah Badu singing in a lounge on the moon backed up by a jittery Martian band.
Teeny’s vocal performance throughout the album displays unbounded versatility as she switches through registers smoothly with a graceful tone. The single, Not For Long, is where we first appreciate her voice as it carries the groove. The more sharp staccato notes lend to the overall delicacy that characterizes her sound. Perhaps the most provocative she gets is during Sticky, a down-tempo track that begins with just a groovy bass until Teeny leads the song into a gospel-tinged, semi-a capella middle section all the way to a grand ending where her vocals are played in reverse. It’s as if the band is following her lead on whether or not to swell or quell their own energy. The song highlights Teeny’s fearless ability to lead her band until they’re comfortably locked into the melodies.
The album’s opener, Rose 4 U, is a daring choice as it is certainly the most energetic song of the bunch. Beginning with a pop feel, the mood switches over in the middle as they channel a classic soulful, stomping rock vibe. Breathe Low And Deep is the most diverse song on the record and the best example of all the influences we’ve seen throughout. It’s got that spacey groove, but then they add a blues element with a brass band in the background. It’s the closest to jazz this group has ever come, and it’s a moment that brings their sound back down to Earth.
No matter where TEEN decide to turn, they have to be commended for their creativity in conceiving such an other-worldly record. There is little here to compare to their relatively minimalist previous record, In Limbo, as they’ve begun to experiment with heavier production and richer vocals. All the while, their tight-knit harmonies blending with the jarring background music boldly juxtapose each other, creating a futuristic version of their familiar 90’s R&B jumping off point.