Whether they’re zeroing in on the anxieties of growing up or reflecting on the daunting pain of heartbreak, it’s clear Future Teens isn’t letting go of their self-proclaimed Boston bummer pop title anytime soon. Their latest studio album, Self Help offers tenderness and aching optimism to deliver the ultimate soundtrack to late night journal entry confessions.
“A lot of the new record came out of a place of not being able to distract myself from what was going on in my own head,” guitarist and co-vocalist Daniel Radin recalls. “Having to confront that in a way that was scary but ultimately really positive.”
Keeping in tune with their signature mental health bangers, the emo-pop quartet —composed of co-vocalists/guitarists Amy Hoffman and Radin, bassist Maya Mortman, and drummer Colby Blauvelt— continues to prove themselves as authentic and engaging as ever. Self Help opens with “Doorknob Confessional” a reference to the bomb dropping, hand-on-the-door confessions made at the very end of therapy sessions. Hoffman and Radin’s lyricism mimics those moments incredibly well as the track immediately delves into the lowest moments of depressive episodes (“spent a holiday weekend in borrowed clothes / and those socks that help you grip the floor”). The sincerity and vulnerability Future Teens are praised for is especially present in Hoffman’s vocals as they deliver the lyrics with pain and desperation which is nicely complemented by the slowed down emo-rock arrangement.
Self Help comes in waves. In between the moments of deep introspection and sadness are glimmers of hope and cathartic relief. Following is “Good Reason,” which is easily one of the most comforting and optimistic songs on Self Help. Although the album’s title pokes fun at the idea of traditional “outdated” self help materials, “Good Reason” serves as this hopeful realization that everything must happen for a reason. There’s some light hearted humor in the track (“do unto others still might fit unless you treat yourself like shit”) and lyrics like “just try and do the best that you can” that make you feel like you’re getting a pep talk from a close friend.
“Well Enough” and “BYOB” candidly tackle coping mechanisms. “It took me a long time to understand that I needed to stop drinking, longer still to learn I couldn’t do it on my own.” Hoffman said of the track. “BYOB came together over the first few months of my sobriety, starting when I thought I “just needed some time off” and ending when I realized if I wanted anything to actually get better, I had to keep trying.” This journey is excellently illustrated between the two tracks where “Well Enough” ends more defeated (“I’m too fucked up to help myself”) “BYOB” ends of a triumphant self-aware note (“feeling bad at least it’s something”) “BYOB” unwinds into a drum and guitar solo that further amplifies the vulnerability of the track and allows for moments of reflection.
Future Teens bummer pop aesthetic is really encapsulated with “Smile with Your Teeth” offering a nice buffer between both songs. By incorporating pop sensibilities, the track is instantly catchy and makes you want to dance and scream along to your insecurities. There’s a playful difference between the songs vocally led by Hoffman or Radin where Hoffman’s translates more as an inner monologue, Radin’s is akin to talking to your best friend about how sad you’ve been feeling lately. Both vocalists easily make anyone feel understood. With “Stress Dream” The Teens bring back the emo-rock soundscape to narrate the lockdown induced motions of being alive but not living and measuring self worth with productivity.
On “Team Sports” —featuring vocals from The Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell— the band delivers Self Help’s overall message reminding themselves and their fans they’ll get through the dark times together. “We’ve all learned the hard way that the best (and sometimes only) way to help ourselves is to ask for help from others,” said Hoffman. Following the deeply reflective track the attitude of the album shifts with “Same Difference” and “Real Change” both focusing on falling back into old habits and the internal battle of trying to get better. Self Help wraps up with “Going Pains”, a goodbye letter to all the things and people that make us feel shitty (“It’s gonna feel so good to miss you”).
While Hoffman and Radin didn’t originally set out to make an album on mental health, Self Help proves to be equally cathartic for listeners as it was for the band. “This is the record that I needed as a depressed kid,” said Hoffman “These are songs that I still need as an adult with plenty of mental health stuff going on.” Self Help is a testament to the better days even as life seems to suck the most. Thankfully, Future Teens doesn’t expect you to face it alone after all, getting better is a team sport.
The third LP from Future Teens is out everywhere now via Triple Crown Records. Experience Future Teens live on tour this October throughout the East Coast and Midwest with Camp Trash and Rat Tally. Find a full list of dates and grab tickets here.