by Tim Crisp
What started as a joke has now completed the full 180 degree turn for Boston’s Future Teens. The group formed around Daniel Radin’ intentions to play a 3-song set at a 4th of July party in 2014. Each step that’s followed has been a movement away from those lighthearted plans. A two-piece became four, then a couple of EP’s, and a debut record, Hard Feelings, in 2017. The record has now been pressed to vinyl and re-released by Take This To Heart, as Future Teens moves forward, as real as it comes.
Hard Feelings is a bright, charming LP rich with hooks and feelings. Radin and co-vocalist Amy Hoffman’s songs concern themselves with the smaller details of modern romance, giving insight into the particulars of life as it is today. “Been spending too much time on dating websites,” Radin sings on “In Love Or Whatever” following up with, “maybe I should just do something / figure my life out.” The second part encapsulates much of the mood that hangs over Hard Feelings. It’s the feeling of sliding into one’s mid 20s, when aimlessness starts to become unsettling, like you really should start to figure things out. But, where does on begin to start such a task?
Radin’s vocal melodies are effortlessly catchy and his soft tenor sits atop a set of earworm pop songs. Hoffman’s melodies are a little more jagged, offering an excellent mix-up from Radin’s more ABAB structures. “Learned Behavior” is similar to “In Love Or Whatever” in spirit, chronicling life after graduation. However, it works as a build, hitting catharsis as Hoffman proclaims, “I wonder if self-loathing is learned behavior / if so can I unlearn it too?”
Future Teens’ songs are mostly light-hearted, even when exploring deeper feelings. The guitars are bright and warm, lending themselves wonderfully to the four chord bounce of “What’s My Sign Again?” and to slower and heavier numbers “Expiration Dating” and “Kissing Chemistry.” The two slow jams, clocking in at just under six and five minutes, are among the album’s highlights. “Kissing Chemistry” finds Hoffman analyzing the ends of a relationship over arpeggiated guitars. The song is expertly navigated, holding out on the payoff before tension boils over into an explosion of guitar layers. “Expiration Dating” is similarly withdrawn, utilizing a loud/quiet dynamic that stretches itself without getting long in the tooth. Radin clocks in with an excellent vocal performance, though it feels like a moment when bigger problems could be addressed. While it fits within the album’s themes of the difficulties pertaining to modern romance, a composition like this could handle a topic a little more profound than forgetting to text someone back. Everything doesn’t have to be life or death, though, and the take away from Hard Feelings is hardly disappointment. Rather, this is another step in the right direction for a band brimming with promise.