Teengirl Fantasy – Tracer – Album Review

photo by Erez Avissar

Teengirl Fantasy proves their first album – the highly acclaimed 7AM – was no fluke, as they get ready to release their latest LP, Tracer , on August 21. Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss are the young masterminds behind the electronic mantras that make up Teengirl Fantasy’s repertoire. Unlike most electronica, their music is performed and composed in the moment and in this particular compilation there is no use of samples, consequently breathing life into an otherwise automaton genre. This is especially impactful in their live performances; after all, why spend money to see someone live when it sounds exactly like pressing “play” at home?

Personally, with electronic music I usually prefer a vocal track, which is one of the reasons I enjoy Teengirl Fantasy; their unique spin on previously produced pop songs are always energetic and danceable. On the new album, the balance between the instrumental and vocal numbers is very well done with four of the ten tracks on the album featuring vocals from Kelela, Panda Bear, Laurel Halo and Romanthony (you’ll know him from Daft Punk’s unforgettable “One More Time”). Both Takahashi and Weiss admit to being open to working with all types of people/artists because Teengirl Fantasy itself is a collaboration. I heartily approve of this mentality because the most amazing things can happen when people share their creative expressions! Often when I hear their compositions I find myself thinking about whose pop song they should makeover next.

A perfect example of collaborating magic is “EFX”, the first single from Tracer, which showcases newcomer Kelela. It’s a marvel of heavy crashing drum lines and tinkling bells that draw attention to the young songstress’s smooth R&B vocal stylings.

“Do It” is another impressive track with vocals by Romanthony. It’s probably the most pop-y track and I loved it! With a persistent clappy accent underlining the drum and organ lines, this song will have you jumping onto the dance floor. Incorporating lyrics like “I’m going to live my life well, so good to be here, this beautiful party… I wanna have some fun, I’m not the only one… I got the feelin’ in the club tonight…”, it’s sure to be  the next big club anthem.

Another favourite of mine is “Timeline” it seems very unassuming at the beginning but the percussion kicks in and launches the tune into this spacey, rhythmic ebb and flow that you don’t want to end, a perfect finish to a fantastic album.

There is a distinct 90s feel to most of the music and the boys attribute this to their new digital FM vector synthesizers. Maybe that’s why the LP resonates with me because those were my formative years, even Takahashi and Weiss admit to the fact that electronic music often produces a feeling of nostalgia.

Overall, there is a definite focus on rhythm-driven progressions that transition into futuristic synth highlights. Every track incorporates a myriad of percussion sounds including thundering drums, jingling tambourines and sparkly glockenspiels resulting in a dreamy-warped push and pull between the bass lines and melodies. Tracks like “Pajama” and “Inca” left me with the impression that the duo must have studied Orff at some point in time because they share his predilection for rhythmic vibes. If I had to sum up the feeling I get from the entire album with one idea, it’d be with the classic kid’s toy the Hoberman Sphere – technology and imagination combined!

For those super music nerds out there (that’s me!), True Panther Sounds is even releasing a limited pressing of a deluxe edition of Tracer that has a lenticular cover designed by Kari Altmann. It will cost you a little more but it will never, ever be repressed and is only available by mail.

You should definitely check these guys out and, as luck would have it, you can do just that on August 17 at the Waldorf. You can find details on the gig right here. I’ll see you there!