With their second album TEEN have created an work of restless inventiveness that defies categorization. It’s like musical cubism, each song finding multiple ways to express itself, pushing to extremes while retaining its essence.
The opening track “Rose 4 U” starts out tightly-wound, off-kilter and funky—not dissimilar to late ’70s Talking Heads—gives way suddenly to an angelic choir, then slowly builds back into something else entirely; three songs for the price of one, like 10cc in their prime.
Likewise, the vocals: rather than the conventional “Listen to my beautiful singing” approach (and they can indeed sing beautifully), here the voices are just as often another instrument to be manipulated into something new. They dip outside their natural range, find fascinating melodies, are treated with pitch filters that yield unexpected harmonies; the result is strange and wonderful.
I hear Prince-like touches of artsy R&B (especially in what’s perhaps my favorite track, the sensuous, pointed, hungry “More Than I Ask For”); there’s an atmospheric Eno-esque instrumental in which voices drift in from afar akin to picking up garbled radio transmissions from space, or the state of waking slowly from sleep, when the external world is gently intruding on the interior one; songs morph from minimalist dub into something dreamy and funky, or from nervous post-punk dance into something approaching prog.
Everything’s constantly twisting away from expectations; few if any of the songs are Just One Style but it all holds together beautifully and the sonic experimentation never overwhelms the songwriting. (As a great example of how strong the songs are at their core, check out the acoustic version of the closing track “All The Same”, which retains what makes it special while using only the most minimally-played acoustic guitar and four voices.)
Not being straightforward or like most other music you’ve heard, The Way and Color isn’t necessarily conducive to being put on the background; it requires and deserves your attention. A remarkable album. (I think kudos is due as well to producer Daniel Schlett.)
Buy it here.