Synth pop’s resurrection is threatening to last longer than its ‘80s heyday thanks in part to our Lorde and saviors (which, depending on your denomination, could be Carly Rae Jepsen, The 1975, Haim, or… uh, whoever makes these videos), but it’s almost blasphemous that teenender remain outliers in our city with their self-proclaimed “Boston underground pop.”
I mean, it goes without saying that Boston has always skewed heavily in favor of guitar rock over synth pop. Sports Coach, one of the city’s most prolific musicians to bring raucous dance parties to basement shows, earned cheeky praise from Vice-offshoot Thump last week for not “sound[ing] like Pavement” or being “your typical Boston bro-fest.” Regardless of how on-the-nose that scene assessment may or may not be, teenender persist, mostly because there’s no way to dial down their unabashed, to-the-rafters synth pop.
Brothers Brian and Chris McKenna began as Video Teeth before shedding the moniker for a sleeker, more produced sound on the t e e n e n d e r EP in 2015. In the two years since, the duo doubled their lineup while quietly releasing two of their best songs to date, stand-alone single “Beat That Invites Me” and the absolutely towering “pen2paper”. Both are absent on Kissed, but teenender’s sophomore EP still serves as a massively catchy reintroduction to the bedroom project-turned-full band effort.
Opener “Not A Dream” dares to craft a sugary chorus that keeps up with singer Brian McKenna’s earnest declarations of rekindled romance (sample line: “oh yeah, under my sheets / cover your head, but not your feet!”) Two songs later, “Speak For Yourself” finds McKenna’s romantic life on the rocks again, but teenender are pretty damn good at masking it with leisurely, borderline-yacht rock guitar work and chants of “feeling good, feeling good, alright.” Kissed is both a reverent shrine to the power of synth pop and, thankfully, proof that a full band can only enhance the brothers McKenna’s vision of a Boston pop underground.
Kissed is streaming below and will be self-released via the band’s Bandcamp.