TEEN

The Way and Color

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

TEEN experimented with so many different sounds on their previous album that it seemed unlikely they'd ever settle on just one style. However, on The Way and Color, they've done just that -- and it was one of the few they didn't touch on In Limbo. Inspired by D'Angelo and Erykah Badu and joined by new bassist Boshra AlSaadi, the Lieberson sisters put their own stamp on R&B, and the results are just as ambitious and even more exciting. On the surface, the main thing The Way and Color shares with its predecessor is a knockout opener: "Better" kicked off In Limbo with an intoxicating shot of confidence that set the stage for the rest of the album's explorations. Here, "Rose 4 U" adds majesty and mystery to that boldness, blooming from a driving, funky intro into a grand gesture of romance and longing. TEEN follows it with songs that dazzle in the way they channel the ambition and psychedelic leanings of their debut into a womanly sound reminiscent of HAIM, Joan as Police Woman, and Luscious Jackson, but are uniquely theirs. "Tied Up Tied Down" shows off the Liebersons' gorgeous harmonies over a relentless rhythm and ping-ponging electronics, while "Breathe Low & Deep," with its spacy swirl of brass, flutes, and synths, is just as transporting as the more traditionally trippy fare of In Limbo. Unlike many of the other indie acts adopting R&B, they go beyond the spare beats and synths palette often associated with the genre. Even when it feels like they might be getting too close to pastiche, TEEN find ways to keep things interesting and weave their fondness for lavish instrumentation even more intrinsically into their songs: "Sticky"'s sublimely lush coda is a fantastic contrast to the stripped-down sounds before it, while the way "Not for Long"' drifts out on brass fanfares and pulsing brass splits the song wide open. The Way and Color also proves TEEN are more truly sensual than many of their like-minded contemporaries. There's an earthiness to these songs that gives them a satisfying weight and impact, from the breathy, flirty "Toi Toi Toi" to the more demanding, complex "More Than I Ask For," where Teeny Lieberson muses, "It's not a matter of turning love into lust/But if we must/Then we'll be left with dust." Compared to their chameleonic Carpark debut, The Way and Color sometimes almost feels too consistent, but hearing TEEN's fondness for reinvention focused into songs this good is even more rewarding.

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