ESSENTIAL: Teeen’s debut EP is confident and sublime blues-pop
What happened to Teeen? Over the course of three years, from 2013 – 2015, this three piece band released an incredibly confident, assured and relaxed trio of songs. There’s some poetry about it I suppose; a band called Teeen, releasing only 3 songs over 3 years. Listening to them feels like sinking into a old rocking chair that you’ve owned for years. There’s something special about Teeen’s bluesy-pop that makes it feel at once totally familiar yet refreshingly new. And then the band disbanded, with lead vocalist Sara Haider moving onto solo work, and guitarist Imam Hamdani and bassist Ahsan Ghulam Hyder pursuing their own interests.
The ‘EP’ (not really but let’s call it that) begins with Baarishon Main, a beautiful and nostalgic ballad, full of clean guitar licks and feather-light percussion. The guitar work here is terrific; understated but thick with feeling. Hamdani’s guitar takes centre spotlight at exactly the right times, always elevating the track, never calling unnecessary attention to itself. Most notable here is Haider’s vocal performance, which, paired with Hamdani’s simple and elegant lyrics, sells the show. Here, on Baarishon Main, there’s a gut-punch profoundness to her voice, which is more apparent here than perhaps in any of her solo work since. Like when she sings ‘hai khushi ka yeh sama’, with such tender sadness, there’s no way we can believe her. When she reaches into her falsetto it thins into a wisp (soch hai teri, hai meri), brittle and crackable. But, as always, there’s beauty in the imperfections.
The other two tracks, Mona and Woh Bolay, don’t quite reach the impeccable lushness of Baarishon Main, but each is so different and quietly experimental. Woh Bolay has a whipcrack attitude about it that’s totally surprising, as well as more brilliant guitar work. Shoutout to Omran Shafique for the excellent mixing and mastering on the tracks.
Mona, too, pushes the envelope by introducing the sitar, and Haider’s lyrics become much more lofty and expansive. Rather than wading in the childhood memory of Baarishon Mein, here the band elevates into grander proclamations: ‘sooraj ghirta aasman, taare andherein hain’. But while this may be distancing, we are anchored throughout by one thing: Mona. A casual drop of a name gives the track a personality, a intimacy, that might have otherwise been a bit too excessive.
As is the case throughout the entire EP, Teeen has an uncanny knack for arrangement, and there’s the sense that these people have been performing with each other for years. All three tracks have a quiet sense of confidence, a feeling that everything is in it’s correct place. It’s not often you hear something that feels this complete, like such a fully-formed idea. It blew me away a bit on first listen, and still does so many listens since.
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