For as much as people have universally bemoaned the hell year that was 2020, I find myself more frustrated, despondent, and aggrieved by how 2021 has started out. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 SUCKED. But I guess with the onset of societal isolation and disconnection forced upon an individual by a fractured political climate and global pandemic, one is forced to confront who they really are, who they really want to be, and what they really want from life.
So in the latter half of 2020, I started that process. I started working out more regularly in order to be a beast when I could finally play ultimate frisbee again (no, it’s okay, feel free to laugh). I started reading books more (which isn’t hard when you never read books as an adult, but still progress!). In all aspects of my life, I put away my trademark pessimism and self-deprecation and started to think that the things I wanted for myself, if they weren’t at the expense of others, were completely reasonable for me to want and pursue. Sounds great right? Well, turns out there are few things worse than when this process starts to go well, only to be met with unintended self-sabotage. How does one come back from a monumental crash and burn spurred on by yet to be conquered internal demons? Luckily for us, Boston bummer pop outfit Future Teens latest EP Deliberately Alive provides us with all the remorse, self reflection, and positive energy needed to make it through personal hardship.
From the opening chords of “Separated Anxiety” one can tell that the group has taken their sound to a level that is bound to break through barriers to reach a wider audience. Co bandleader Daniel Radin’s production is sleek and polished and the songs themselves are serene and elevating. Regardless of some somber subject matter (failed relationships, depression and mental health issues) the sparkling bright melodies and optimistic lyrics carry the listener to a place where they can simultaneously confront their struggles and find the way forward.
The brutal honesty of Radin and fellow bandleader Amy Hoffman’s lyrics are a great facilitation of this process. The way they vulnerably recount past mistakes, past loves, and their improving outlook on those experiences is irresistibly endearing. They do this with some of their trademark tongue in cheek demeanor (“I don’t even have a guest room yet / How can I expect to die like that / With space that’s shared and rent that’s due / When it’s still my turn to vacuum) and some of the most brutal and confessional lyrics they’ve penned to date (“It’s not that leaving doesn’t hurt / But you’re the subject of that verb”, “I still can’t forget about that night in Connecticut / When I laid on the ground and begged for an answer / I think I get it now / God damn, I was panicked / There couldn’t be anyone else until there was you”). Repeatedly, one will find lines that they feel compelled to send to the friend or ex that you wish to reconcile with. As Hoffman and Radin recount these past experiences one just as easily commiserates with them over mistakes as they commit to self improvement and progress (“The next time around / God damn, I’ll do better / I can’t be anyone else, so why pretend to / Look back on the person I was as if anything’s improved / Asking for help getting out when the only way is through / Maybe once nobody’s left that’ll solve the issue”).
Yet, as serious of an EP as this is, it’s still plenty of fun to listen to. First single “Guest Room” bops along with Hoffman’s buoyant singing and Colby Blauvelt and Maya Mortman maintaining the energy with their dynamic drum and bass parts. And the way the guitar parts twinkle through the bars on “Play Cool” and “Bizarre Affection” would make them easy contenders for inclusion on the soundtrack of some early 00’s CW teen drama (I swear that’s a compliment). And the way Hoffman’s resolute and resonant vocals compliment Radin’s smooth timbre (that lies somewhere between Dan Campbell and David Bazan) is a perfect concoction of indie emo pop goodness and no where is this clearer than on the inspired cover of Cher’s seminal song “Believe”.
With such a seamless release of consistent successes in songwriting, one can only listen to this record with a sense of jilted entitlement. It almost seems unfair to the listener that these songs only compose an EP. But, with such a staggering realization of their lyrical, musical, emotional, and overall artistic proficiencies, we can wait with eager ears for the next full length from these growing “teens” to drop sometime in the near future.
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