EP Review: Future Teens – ‘Deliberately Alive’
Posted: by The Editor
In 2019, Boston-based quartet Future Teens leveled up with their release Breakup Season, a collection of heart-on-the-sleeve pop tunes that will leave you both crying and laughing. It’s more refined than their debut LP Hard Feelings, with the band sounding stronger and tighter. The sixteen-minute EP features some of the group’s most ambitious songs to date, full of creative guitar work and the band’s signature unabashedly direct lyrics.
Daniel Radin takes first honors between the group’s two singers with “Separated Anxiety,” a song that kicks off with a guitar pumping like an anxious heartbeat with keys sprinkled on top. As the song builds, the guitars switch to single lines with soft acoustic added in the background. This interplay between layered guitars works great across the EP, creating a feeling of there being more space in the music. It also puts some of the spotlight on the group’s rhythm section (Maya Mortman on bass and Colby Blauvelt on drums). Blauvelt joined the group for Breakup Season, and, with Mortman, anchor the band so that Radin and Amy Hoffman’s guitar work and vocals can wander where they want.
Hoffman gets their turn next on “Guest Room,” probably the most uptempo song in the group’s collection – and an absolute banger. The EP’s title is nodded to in the chorus lyrics that also point to the core of what the group is confronting lyrically on these songs: “If I’m gonna be someone deliberately alive / How do I do it right?” The second chorus is followed by a ripping and tasteful guitar solo that stands out among the group’s catalog. From there, it breaks down into a call-and-response bridge, growing in intensity with each pass through that will sure to be a favorite of Future Teens live shows in the future.
Speaking of live shows, “Play Cool” puts the listener at a concert venue, downing beers, and coming to the conclusion that a change is needed (“crying outside the venue“). The combination of the two palm-muted guitars in the verse create a vibe not unlike the Eve 6 megahit “Here’s to the Night.” Radin lays out the song’s theme in the bridge, singing “So now we’re going through the motions / Spent half the year on borrowed time / I think maybe I was hoping / We could admit we won’t be fine.” The song seems to describe one of those nights where you have to stop and look at your regular behavior and ask the simple—yet difficult—question: “why am I doing this?”
“Bizarre Affection” highlights much of what is great about Deliberately Alive, as the band works with a range of dynamics and twinkling, arpeggiated guitars. With the guitars pulling back in the verses, the song is also where Mortman and Blauvelt’s presence is most felt on the record. As the singers, Hoffman and Radin rightly get a lot of the attention, but Future Teens is a group of four talented musicians and the rhythm section provides a great foundation on Deliberately Alive with melodic basslines and impeccably placed drum fills.
Carrying on what appears to be a tradition of earnest pop covers (after “All Star” on the band’s 2020 release Sensitive Sessions), Future Teens close out the EP with their take on Cher’s “Believe.” Tempo-wise, it’s the most restrained song on the record, with an almost country-twang from the lap steel guitar (perhaps a nod to Radin’s excellent solo side project, Lake Saint Daniel).
Deliberately Alive is a great EP because it keeps the heart and soul of the group intact, even as they push for new sounds and contrasts. The lyrics are still in the emo/bummer pop style that the group does so well, and they haven’t abandoned any of their huge pop hooks. But, just like on Breakup Season, the band seems to be honing their sound, showing new textures, and growing their bag of tricks with each release.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
Aaron Eisenreich – @slobboyreject
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