Arizona’s Pro Teens are a band that seem to be enchanted with the marvels of stereo sound. Distant cues like the soft drip-drip of a faucet on opener “Goodnight Moon’d,” or the guitars which open like blinds on “Decoy” only to be snapped shut in downtempo, are better appreciated when getting to the heart of the production. Furthermore, the group’s obsession with meticulous setups makes more sense when considering the band’s anachronistic mentality.
Their LP, Accidentally, is a hodgepodge of bygone styles: a reprieve from the desert in favor of pools of swirling Rhodes, or valleys of acoustic guitar entrenched in flamenco texture. Other moments, like those committed on “Feather Boy,” find themselves not far from indie’s more experimental corners. The track in question flirts with dissonance in the same way early Modest Mouse tampers with melody and tone. The guitars slide beneath synth whistles, even the vocals slur and grow heavy. The bass sound is what remains solid throughout the mix, as on Phil Spector records. It’s a force tethered to what rumbles beneath — or behind — this release. There’s a yearning for the past or, at least, a yearning to be stable.
Stability is thrown into question when “Motel Reflections,” a mid-album speed bump, delivers a picture not unlike one caused by rain flicked away by windshield wipers: what lies ahead isn’t always clear, but the outlines remain enough in focus for forward motion. Spacey synth chords and airy, almost defeated background vocals give this ballad an air of uneasy disconnection. A clave clicks, dating this to somewhere in the ’70s with an added layer of mystery-flick flair.
Tracks like “Puberty” and “Teen Feels” obviously replace post-adolescent stupor with something mildly younger, a choice that’s legitimized by callbacks to doo-wop, tom-tom drums and the drawn-out syllables and phrases of a blue-eyed crooner. Their places in Accidentally‘s running time could be mistaken for sarcastic additions if the rest of the running time traveled a straighter, 2016-minded path. That doesn’t happen — instead Pro Teens are caught winding through clipped soft-rock (“Voyage of Don”), parlor-room odes to strange lovers (“Hamuela”), and even a light brush with a sitar (“Tobacca”). The act of ignoring musical timelines seems like profanity in the indie-rock world — our taste cultures seem molded and defined for now – but an attempt to swear by a different set of rules is one express route to timelessness.
Considering that Accidentally sounds like an export from vinyl’s heyday (the first one, mind you), it’s a record that seems designed for the format. The release’s love for stereo textures takes full advantage of a stereo system, where everything from a chiming tone on the sleep-adled “Contact High” or the tranquilized keyboards of “Goodnight Moon’d” rings through clear. The added noises and jagged ambient tack-ons make for a fun game of musical chairs — darting from one speaker to the other — as the main action whirls on.
Broken Circles, as of late, has become enamored with matte packaging (a prime choice) and printed inner sleeves, which add (however metaphorically) to the weighted nature of a 2016 rock record making multiple, decades-spanning hops throughout its course. The outer sleeve pairs a font that’s on the edge of serif and sans serif – much like Pro Teens’ own stylistic volleying – with loud, coarse animal imagery: an interesting choice given the remarkably sedate audio content.
A digital download is included at time of purchase. There isn’t much in the realm of extras here, save for the upgraded packaging stock. Then again, not all nostalgia comes bundled with such things.
Accidentally is available on olive green vinyl (limited to 500 copies) and green cassette (limited to 100 copies) via Broken Circles, here.