Future Teens’ debut album Hard Feelings is their way of saying that growing up doesn’t always coincide with personal gratification. In fact, the album promotes just the opposite: stumbling into young adulthood feels unfulfilling and uncomfortable. It’s as if this Bostonian foursome missed an important source of inspirational council somewhere along the unguided threshold of adolescence and are now asking themselves “What went wrong?”
Although that outward discontent cloaks Future Teens in accessible anxiety, their true, self-described identity is that of a “bummer pop band.” In other words, Future Teens may make evocative disquietude their crux, but they coat that uneasiness with thick layers of sarcastic humor and animated pop/punk hooks.
Take the opening track “Sleep Schedule” for example – singer Daniel Radin finally gets invited back to a girl’s house after an extended spell of dispiriting loneliness, yet he struggles to stay awake after such a long night. He blames his sleep schedule for his late-night woes, wondering if he should just leave since he isn’t functioning properly at 3am and isn’t bold enough to kiss the girl anyway. Heavy, lo-fi guitar riffs and sharp cymbal smashes stand behind Radin’s conundrum to emphasize the album’s common theme of swelling anxiety and panicky decision-making processes. As goofy as stories like this sound from the outside looking in, most of Future Teens’ sleep-loving, love-coveting listeners have been there before. This crew is as relatable as a “bummer pop band” can possibly be.
Future Teens’ connective formula couldn’t be stronger than on the albums’ crowning track “In Love or Whatever.” The upbeat, defeatist song makes age a frustrating stereotype in the pursuit of lifelong love. The band cooperatively bellows about a typical encounter, singing “She’s 22 years old, just graduated. Tells me that Boston sucks, it’s overrated.” Only a few seconds later however, Radin counters with the downside of his own time-rotting age, saying “26 feels like there’s some things I missed.” There doesn’t seem to be a solution beyond regretful hindsight, but the title and refrain continue to lighten the mood by suffixing the concept of falling in love with a lukewarm, nonchalant “…or whatever.”
“Kissing Chemistry,” “Giving Up On Crushes,” and “DTFL” close out Hard Feelings with an unexpected sense of exhaustion. While the first seven songs read like a humorous demand for some sort of restive karma, these final three songs plead for a break. The pop/punk hooks vanish are are replaced with much slower, simplistic guitar patterns to make room for a heavier, more serious vocal message. The constant heartache and mental strain are crushing to the members of Future Teens, and at this point it feels easier to stop trying than to keep throwing punchlines at an endless barrage of taxing obstacles.
Sure, Hard Feelings may sound like an emotional rollercoaster, but the ride is well worth it. Future Teens’ retrospective restlessness wrapped in their comical vernacular is a concept that younger generations can really sympathize with. The band members’ vulnerable, genuinely funny personalities are a magnet for connectivity. Their playful flippancy is an authentic and unique approach to their respective market, and a continued focus on the banality of instability will be key to their long-term success.
Favorite Tracks: In Love or Whatever, Expiration Dating, Kissing Chemistry, What’s My Sign Again, Sleep Schedule