Teen Men Provide an Audio/Visual Treat

5 Aug

Teen Men found the inspiration for its band name in an ad taken from a 1960s era Playboy magazine. According to the Delaware band’s bio page on the website of its label, this appealed to them because teen men take risks, yearn for new experiences, and have an inordinate amount of self-confidence — often for no reason at all.

What does risk and confidence bordering on being foolhardy have to do with Teen Men? Well…the band is made up of two musicians: Nick Krill, a guitarist and songwriter and Joe Hobson, guitarist; plus two visual artists, Albert Birney, a keyboardist and creator of the Simply Sylvio series on Vine; and Catharine Maloney, a fine artist who has exhibited internationally — but also happens to play keyboards. As such, they refer to themselves as an “audio/visual group.” That’s risk, right?

Exhibit A of being an audio/visual group is the intriguing video they created for their first single from the Teen Men album, “Adventure Kids.” In addition, their live performances often include an interactive video that’s synchronized to their music. According to the label’s website once again, this video “provides an interactive platform for the band members and audience.”

Their music sounds a lot like a young Vampire Weekend. Compelling melodies are set to trip-hop beats — with liberal use of synthesizers and other keyboards, guitars, some samples, and noise on a few of the tracks.

The second song on the album, “Adventure Kids,” opens with a mesmerizing electronic rhythm mixed with tasty guitar licks. Drums are layered in to provide a steady backbeat for Krill’s dreamy, smooth lead vocals.

“The Sea, The Sea” hears Krill singing wistfully about youthful turning points. A steel drum adds a bit of a Caribbean flavor. Near the end of the track, Krill sings, “It seems we find ourselves confused by our own youth…” This mantra encapsulates much of what the band has to say on this album.

The fifth track, “René,” is a light and breezy melody with a very interesting bass line. Keys and guitar are interspersed in creative ways, and a backing chorus is ever-present.

“New Kind” stretches the envelope for the band. It opens with a funky, stop-and-go rhythm that includes an electronic drum kit, electronic bass, scratchy guitar, and Krill’s vocals. There’s a real resemblance to more experimental indie synth pop-rock artists such as Split Screens.

The album closes with “Kids Being Kids,” which features a female vocalist (Maloney? Or possibly, a guest vocalist?) echoing responses to some of Krill’s questions and ideas. The song has a quiet energy together with an inner peace that’s quite appealing.

It’s worth noting that the band members, truthfully, aren’t teens at all. Krill and Hobson were originally together in the Spinto Band, a little-known indie rock group also from Delaware, which got its start in the mid-1990s. That puts the band members more likely in their late 20s or early 30s. Still young, but not that young.

But thanks to Teen Men’s youthful sound, clever lyrics and complex new-age beats, this is definitely an album worth listening to — especially if you enjoy the quirkiness, loveliness and preciseness of Vampire Weekend.


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