Fredericton musician Mike Nason walks us through the debut full-length from chillteens.
Sometimes when I’m listening to chillteens I think about that trope from 90s sitcoms where a young kid has a crush on, like, his older sister’s best friend. In this scenario, the kid is about eight and the girl is around 17 and it’s legitimately very cute. It’s not like an Urkel thing where he’s obnoxious and doesn’t let it go. He’s not a creep. His heart is full of love, after all… he’s unflappable. When she lets him down she’s real sweet about it. She says something along the lines of, “maybe when you’re older”, and she gives him a little peck on the cheek. The crowd goes “aww” and we move on to whatever the A-plot for the episode was… probably something to do with grades or the big dance or something about how Corey’s brother is a fuckup.
Oscar Tecu, the chillest teen, has a heart that’s as big and dumb as this television eight year old, for sure. And he’s managed to play the part of a one-man four-piece to fill the space. sweet songs is a record that feels like it wants to hang out in the pool all day. It’s poppy and schmaltzy. It’s six songs as notes passed back in forth in class; forever and always heartemojiheartemoji. These are all love songs. Love songs for hot days. Each track is a heart-filled missive with just enough of a minor chord creep or sliver of sonic dissonance to remind you that love isn’t easy.
It’s a sound that is really hard to describe. In some ways, chillteens sound like tainted indie lounge music… like, if an old crooner wrote songs for Yo La Tengo but produced with Twin Peaks sensibilities. It also sounds a little like if Toronto’s LUKA had his songs arranged by Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk.
Either way, it’s a mouthful.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that there isn’t really anything like chillteens, especially locally. And I can’t think of many other bands that could pull off putting a bassy R&B talk-down in the middle of a track (sweet bay) without making me skip to the next song. It’s the sort of thing that straddles the line between tongue-and-cheek and completely sincere. That’s quite an accomplishment.
I can’t remember the first time I’d heard chillteens but I remember it feeling like it didn’t quite fit in it’s clothes; uncomfortable with itself. And the band has had a number of iterations over the course of the last year. Oscar’s songwriting has always been ambitious. He has almost too many ideas. But here he’s found balance. And his support is few and far between. Luke Wilson adds a few guitar parts to the record. Kelly Waterhouse has an amazing sax solo on sweet bay. The addition of Emily Kennedy and Oscar’s sister Kira Maya on backing vocals really ties the whole room together (especially in spring dreamin’). In the context of bass groove, these vocal hues mix so well with Oscar’s voice that the songs feel like they’ve landed. And while those tones push up the sweetness, they also increase the creepiness of the record.
It’s that edge… that strange vibe… that’s what I love the most about this record. If these were straight up major chord love songs, I don’t think I’d be on board. There are times where, lyrically, I feel like things drift a little too heavily into bedroom cliché. But, almost without fail, the song shifts a little into the bizarre in a way that I can’t help but love.
sweet songs is a unique, honest, and lush-sounding record. It is, at this point, nearly impossible for me to listen to it without visualizing a room full of awkward teens shuffling back and forth to these slow-jams in a stuffy gymnasium. Someone snuck some booze into the punchbowl. Bored chaperones are tapping their toes and furrowing their brows, staring into phones. And the songs filling the room are written by secret weirdos.
It’s really, really great. Great, and hard to describe.