Imperial Teen
Feel the Sound
Merge Records

With a freshness reminiscent of a band in its early 20s just discovering the late-’90s, indie-pop styles of the New Pornographers or Superchunk, San Francisco’s Imperial Teen is back with its first studio release in five years. In true Imperial Teen fashion, they deliver just about the perfect blend of bubblegum fuzz with shimmery guitar, melodic synth, danceable beats, and happier-than-thou harmonies. In fact, to get the party-on-a-record started, all four members share lead vocals on the album’s first track, “Runaway.”

Formed in 1996, Imperial Teen made their debut with Seasick, which Spin named the No. 4 album of that year. Made up of Roddy Bottom (ex-Faith No More keyboardist), Will Schwartz, Lynn Truell, and Jone Stebbins, the band has a unique knack for creating glimmering, dancy pop that oozes hooks—almost seeming like it could be destined for Top 40 radio in another universe. That said, there is something just too cool about this band’s tunes that keeps it from getting that tag.

This listener-friendly record full of jangly guitar and purposeful beats doesn’t have a slow-down point. Even the more airy, soft, and minor-tinged tunes like “All the Same” and “Don’t Know How You Do It” will make the lazy want to get up and bounce around. “Out from Inside” is another harmony- and synth-laden treat that will leave you thinking you’ve encountered an unreleased Prince song from his garage-pop days.

Imperial Teen shows off an incredible amount of youthful musicality on Feel the Sound for a band that’s now in its 16th year. Memorable hooks, sass, and musicians obviously having a good time certainly make for a fun and lethal combination. —Rich Osweiler

Must-hear track: “Overtaken”