One of the most referenced things about Teengirl Fantasy’s debut album has been the seemingly innocuous title, 7AM. The band members themselves claim that the record is “meant to evoke the sort of confused, dreamy half-awake, half-asleep state that one experiences after staying up all night.” Given that Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi, the two men behind Teengirl Fantasy, are college students trying to juggle their post-secondary education, international tours, and their responsibilities as a hot buzz band, it would seem to be a case of writing what you know. Odds are that the pair have spent plenty of evenings working until the album’s titular hour.
But I’m not sure if 7AM really evokes that feeling. Listening to tracks like “In The Rain” and “Floor To Floor,” I almost would think the album would be more appropriate titled 2AM; not the hour when you’re just about to fall asleep pulling an all-nighter, but the hour when you’re putting off studying or working in favor of head bobbing and booty-shaking. It’s less the accidental wisdom of early-morning insomnia and more the accidental profundity of late-night mistakes.
While 7AM may not be the soundtrack to the long night’s sunrise, it’s successful on pretty much every other level. Opener “Vibes” doesn’t fully congeal until around the four minute mark, but its deftly crafted ebb and flow justifies its extended buildup, and the payoff is goddamn transcendent. Penultimate track “Koi Pond” spends half its length sounding like a fever dream, its vocals distant and indecipherable and its gentle keyboards awash in a haze. Then it explodes with brightly colored energy, its rhythm track galloping over glow-stick synthesizers that snap the track back to reality. Closer “Forever The Feeling” finds tropical influences without losing the group’s razor-sharp tonal focus on dreamy atmospherics and insatiable beats. And the band’s first foray into live vocals, “Dancing in Slow Motion,” which features Brooklyn post-punk band Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess, manages to dance the precarious line between ’80s homage and ’80s camp.
And it’s necessary when talking about 7AM to mention the track that garnered the most hype, centerpiece “Cheaters.” It’s the most immediately accessible track on the album, catchy enough even for those who have never been a fan of house-influenced music before. Pulling from the 1978 soul track “Cheaters Never Win” by the Love Committee, “Cheaters” sprinkles its sample giddily, not splicing it into bits and pieces like many current producers, but using whole sections of its source material to drop you headfirst into the dark corners of the club. Shining neon synths bounce between stereo channels to form the stage, an insistent rhythm section conjures up the dimly lit dance floor, and when that pained vocal comes in…. Is that your buddy making out with your girl by the bathroom? It’s 7AM‘s crowning achievement.
The songs on 7AM were worked on in three different locales — Takahashi’s New Jersey basement, a sound studio in Amsterdam, and a studio in Brooklyn — spread out over the course of the past year. That time and effort pays off on record. Repeated listens reveal the subtleties in transitions, or drive home the effortless density of the album’s lushest moments. Background vocals previously unheard add even more depth to a track’s climax, and the crisp, cultivated edges of individual sounds allow each sonic element its proper breathing room. It may not perfectly detail your half-lidded insomniac daydreams, but it’s only because 7AM‘s impeccably detailed 40 minutes are a perfect fit for any hour of the day.