True Panther Sounds / R&S
Since the release of their debut album, conversations surrounding Teengirl Fantasy usually revolve around the group meeting in college and quickly fetishize the idea of the duo reviving house and techno records from decades gone by. And while 7AM certainly paid homage to others through its use of samples and unique editing, the group’s approach to their sophomore record has completely shifted their original outlook; it’s now less about the past and more about the future. And with the help of a few friends, the duo of Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi may have finally found their truest sound: a balance of gorgeous vocals and incredible synth work.
Guest stars from artists like Panda Bear, Laurel Halo, and Romanthony and a more future-minded approach make this record.
It was obvious from their work on 7AMTracer that Teengirl Fantasy had a certain way with keyboards, a an obsession with barely-retro, borderline cheesy noises that tapped into an obsession with a return to the analogue. And because of that, Tracer mostly plays onto a demographic that we chose not to talk about, a huge mass of fans that have a reverence for a decade they weren’t even alive for, much less have memories from. But that’s okay. Describing Tracer as an uncanny valley of misappropriated ‘80s music isn’t meant to be disparaging, as the group certainly draws from a myriad of inspiration, but it’s clear they have no qualms with being grounded in the past. It’s at times a bit hamfisted just how bad Weiss and Takahashi want you to know they like R&B records too, but it’s lost amongst the noise of house and techno crowd.
TEENGIRL FANTASY – TRACER ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW
But would be nothing if it wasn’t for its guest features, the handful of tracks which help breathe life into the otherwise repetitive record. And the list is certainly star studded, too. Animal Collective’s Panda Bear lends a short bit of vocals on “Pyjama,” one of the more hip-hop oriented tracks on the album. It’s a stammering, disorienting rhythm, one that knocks at the ears of every listener, but it deviates from the norm enough to make it worth coming back to. Laurel Halo’s addition on “Mist of Time” brings a powerful and monstrous vocalist to the track, turning Teengirl’s instrumental electronic music into massive pop music. And that’s maybe what the group could learn most from Tracer — that these collaborators lending vocals do more for the music than the two of them could ever do. It takes their music from just being accessible and fun synth composed music and transforms it into compositions which are relatable and engaging, something that the rest of the album sometimes struggles with. Tracks such as “Eternal” and “Timeline” follow similar patterns of building synth upon synth, layering different tempos and filter passes for a few minutes while building to very little. The execution is spot on, but their attraction remains relative, even for those analogue aficionados.
The gulf between the instrumental and vocalized tracks makes itself more apparent than ever when you reach “Do It,” the second to last track on Tracer. Featuring Romanthony, who is a longtime Daft Punk collaborator, “Do It” is perhaps one of the most impressive songs of the year. Or at least the most infectious. The echoing handclaps, quickly pounding keys and excellently produced crescendos make for a song that’s altogether undeniable at its core. It’s the kind of timeless dance music that many artists yearn to make, yet it seems to come effortlessly to this duo. Ultimately, however, it just means you pine for more of what “Do It” and “Mist of Time” offer. If Weiss and Takahashi are able to realize that these tracks are what make Tracer special and are able to build upon that going forward, the group has a chance to be transcendent. If not, and these collaborations are just an aberration, then Teengirl Fantasy seem relegated to mediocrity. Tracer is a terrifically compelling and interesting record, but more than that, I hope it’s a harbinger of what’s to come.