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teen girl scientist monthly – modern dances

you can try as much as you’d like, but i think you’ll be pretty hard-pressed to find a better album opener on any record this year than “summer skin,” the first track off of teen girl scientist monthly’s debut album, modern dances.  the brooklyn sextet thrive on creating raucous, layered power pop gems with alternating guy-girl vocals that recall bands like weezer and rilo kiley and the pains of being pure at heart.  the band members themselves liken their music to “ra ra riot and clap your hands say yeah making out in a bathroom,” and also count guided by voices, jay reatard, and arcade fire as influences.  sound pretty enticing?  i thought so.

teen girl scientist monthly’s debut album isn’t perfect, but it does show a group of musicians who are already ready to take risks and step outside the strict parameters of their specific genre.  the anthemic choruses of “summer skin” are immediately followed by a one-two-three punch of “it’s on,” “new wave,” and “hear boys talk,” all three of which rely on ridiculously catchy keyboard and/or vocal hooks to ensnare listeners; as a frame of reference, fragments of “hear boys talk” soundtracked my dream sequences last night.  but even after that exciting whirlwind of songs, it’s the comparatively calm “faith” that got me to take teen girl scientist monthly seriously.  half of the band’s established sonic palate is stripped away or altered on this baroque pop-infused track, trading string arrangements for the prominent synth lines and channelling the hell out of their arcade fire influence both vocally and compositionally.

the back half of modern dances mostly contains songs aesthetically on par with “faith,” which can feel stagnant at times, but little moments of assertive pop creep up at appropriate moments to refresh and reset the mind.  “ghost coast” brings back the hook-based writing favored on the album’s a-side for two and a half minutes of sensible indie dance music and “your kind,” the penultimate track, flirts with power pop within the context of a well-orchestrated setting.

all of the rock-oriented records i’ve listened to and liked this year have had strong influences from the garage, emo, or post-punk scenes, but modern dances is the first album i’ve heard that is an exhilarating roller coaster from start to finish.  teen girl scientist monthly pull off making music with reckless abandon very, very well, and their debut album should definitely be something you hear at least once.

7.7/10

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