In Limbo

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In Limbo, the title of TEEN's Carpark debut, reveals that the band is nothing if not self-aware. Fronted by former Here We Go Magic member Teeny Lieberson, the group has sonic ties to many of its other female-driven contemporaries; while shades of the Vivian Girls' girl group-fueled noise pop, the tribal electronics of Telepathe, and Warpaint's psychedelic vistas can be heard on this set of songs, TEEN have an in-betweenness that ends up making them unique. Similarly, over the course of In Limbo, the band is often caught between making the perfect pop song and reaching for expansive bliss. The album's first half shows they have the pop side nailed: "Better" kicks things off with Lieberson's jubilant insistence that she'll "do it better than anybody else," and her slightly rough alto and unabashed confidence -- something in short supply among 2010s indie rockers of either gender -- are fresh and rousing. On "Come Back"'s slightly kitschy exotica-pop, she sings "Look at me, I'm a prize," while sitting on her doorstep waiting for her lover's return, and this mix of boldness and vulnerability echoes artists like Liz Phair, Karen O, and Chrissie Hynde in spirit if not in sound. Meanwhile, "Electric"'s frosty dance-punk pays homage to foremothers like the Mo-dettes and Romeo Void. In Limbo boasts a fuller, more varied sound than TEEN's homemade, self-released debut, Little Doods, and the group enlisted Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom to flesh things out. His support and influence becomes felt more and more as the album unfolds, especially on "Charlie," a girl group slow dance number shot into the stars, and on the ultra-psychedelic "Why Why Why," a piece of cosmic sprawl that also recalls Kendra Smith's projects in the early and mid-'80s. By the end of In Limbo, Lieberson and crew have sacrificed some of their distinctive spunk for "Roses & Wine" and "Fire"'s transcendent grooves and harmonies, which are undeniably lovely but perhaps less intriguing than what came before them. At the very least, In Limbo shows that the band can do a lot of things well, and while this set of songs isn't exactly scattered, TEEN's ambitions lead them to be less cohesive than they might have been had they picked one direction and stuck with it. Still, having too many enticing options on where to go next isn't a problem troubling too many bands, and hearing TEEN caught in the middle of them is one of In Limbo's many pleasures.

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