Imperial Teen: Feel the Sound

Merge Records/Courtesy

After five years since their last studio release, local pop-rockers Imperial Teen have come back with full, bubbly fury. Whether you’ve been a fan since the ’90s, or have just discovered the eccentric group, Feel the Sound will draw you in with its catchy guitar riffs and the pop-glossed vocals of Robby Bottum and Will Schwartz.

The album opens with the booming single “Runaway,” with its melodic synth opening and heavy-yet-friendly guitar riffs, as Bottum and Schwartz sing with affection with bassist Jone Stebbins and drummer Lynn Truell providing backing vocals. Although the voices of Bottum and Schwartz are perfect fits for cheery pop music, the group works best when all four of the members are harmonizing together. The chorus on “No Matter What You Say” exemplifies this with the group’s rhythmic “uh-huhs” layered over their combined vocals.

These sparkling qualities, like the bright-eyed synth, give the record an ’80s charm to it. The group’s bubblegum pop remains entrancing without feeling overly sweet. This delicate balance between catchy and cliche is due to the bite of the guitars and drums. Not only does Truell keep a steady beat, but she makes it intriguing too. On the album closer “Overtaken,” even though the song has a solemn tone, Truell’s drums cling on to a sliver of joy that keeps the track from falling completely into sadness.

Even though the album’s cheery vibe is what will ultimately draw listeners in, it also acts as a flaw. Songs can begin to border on repetitive, as there can only be so many “da-das” and “oh-ohs” before tracks begin to sound identical. Thankfully, this is only a minor blemish, as Feel the Sound still remains pleasing and its peppy hooks will stay with you long after the you put down your headphones.