Release Date 03/01/2019
(Carpark) NACC, SubModern
If TEEN’s 2016 album Love Yes was a bursting, harmony-infused synthpop thesis on embracing love, then its follow-up, the even more joyous and melodic Good Fruit, is its opposite, a look at what happens after love fades. The Lieberson sisters—Teeny, Lizzie, and Katherine—have, with their fourth album, crafted a dynamic, hook-stuffed take on the oft-trodden breakup album; as on prior releases, there are frequent meditations on death, capitalism, and womanhood.
The sisters—and Boshra AlSaadi, a longtime TEEN member who left a year into songwriting to focus on her own music—spun together Good Fruit in a few places, over roughly a year, as they aimed to break free of the notorious write-record-tour cycle. At a week-long session in Montreal in February 2017, they began working on “Radar,” a Lizzie-penned ballad that explores a previously unmentioned formative trauma. Another Montreal week in April 2017 birthed a large chunk of Good Fruit, and a five-day expedition in upstate New York led to “Putney,” a slinky, bassy bop that deals with how projected ideals and personal fantasy play into sex and misogyny.
“Runner” came last, arising from an environment where the sisters surely feel the most comfortable: New York, the city where they’ve lived for over a decade. Perhaps the album’s most bursting, beatific, synth-driven track, “Runner,” which reflects on fleeing a relationship as a partner wants to become closer, jelled just before the album was completed, in an NYC home studio belonging to TEEN collaborator Miles Francis.
While recording Good Fruit, the sisters employed a self-described “reductive approach,” strove to create space within their songs, and, for their first time, self-produced the album (save a few co-productions from Francis, who also played on some songs). These techniques explode the glistening, sprinting glamour of “Only Water,” a deceptively upbeat number about death and the loss of a loved one. They inform Good Fruit’s handful of ballads too, including “Pretend,” which rings with a vast, unsettling static fuzz even as Lizzie beautifully recounts the disappointment of realizing a partner wasn’t all she’d built them up to be.
When love fades, TEEN soars. “A lot of what ties Good Fruit in...is forging new paths for ourselves and letting go of old ways of doing things,” Teeny says. The band’s intentional amendments to its longtime formula have resulted in its most mature, nuanced, and exhilarating statement yet.
The band TEEN came together at the turn of the decade, but its members have known each other their whole lives. Teeny, Lizzie, and Katherine Lieberson are sisters. Although they grew up in a musically vibrant Halifax home—their father was the esteemed composer Peter Lieberson—their first band jelled once they all lived in New York.
Teeny officially conceived TEEN in 2010 while on break from touring as part of renowned band Here We Go Magic. Following her self-recorded 2011 release Little Doods, she invited her sisters to join the project, transforming TEEN into a full-blown band. Carpark records caught wind of Teeny’s work, and TEEN signed to the label for its proper debut album, 2012’s In Limbo. The sisters’ unsurprising, inevitable chemistry manifests across the record’s sprawling, lo-fi psychedelia; the familial bonds that formed it gave it a strength that resulted in acclaim from publications including Rolling Stone, which claimed, “the matter-of-fact beauty of [Teeny’s] sweetly somber voice and the album’s unapologetically fat synths...proves highly evocative.”
It was with their 2014 follow-up The Way and Color, though, that the sisters solidified their accessible but complex, psychedelia- and synth-informed pop lens through which they explore romance, womanhood, and social constructs. Of the album’s more outré, electronic-influenced sounds, The New York Times raved: “The band’s new songs bloom with vocal harmonies and double down on intricate counterpoint…. TEEN’s music never [loses its balance].”
Good Fruit, the band’s fourth and newest album, is its sharpest thesis yet. A meditation on life after love, it’s thematically the opposite of its predecessor, 2016’s Love Yes, which The Guardian praised as “reminiscent of...inventive late-70s to mid-80s pop groups.” Musically, though, Good Fruit is the logical evolution of Love Yes’ massive uptick in synth use and sticky-hot choruses. The album boasts self-assured, skyrocketing synthpop anthems including “Only Water” and “Runner,” which betray the crucial lessons the sisters took from experiencing the distinct, enlivening ways that their myriad Love Yes tourmates employed synths. As with all TEEN albums, there are haunting ballads, most notably “Pretend,” which swells into a roaring synthetic climax as it details a relationship’s failure. A precise analysis of life after love, it’s an ideal note on which to end Good Fruit, a bold statement on moving forward and letting go of the past.