Asbury Park's Teenage Halloween makes an energetic and introspective debut on their self-titled album - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

If you are missing live concerts, punk-pop band Teenage Halloween won’t make it any easier with the release of their debut self-titled LP. The 10-track album is a powerful and liberating account of struggles with identity, navigating the overwhelming chaos of the world, and the disdain for our political system. 

The band shared about the album on their Twitter, “It’s about collected trauma but also finding euphoria in yourself by being vulnerable. You don’t need to look a certain way to be beautiful. You are valid. Hope you can relate to this.”

Whether or not you find a home within the band’s multitudes of inspiration, the energy within all areas of the album is contagious. From lead singer Luke Henderiks’ compelling and strong vocals to the band’s ripping layers guitar lines, there is a certain type of catharsis that comes out of listening. Each tells their own narrative that connects to this bigger picture of tackling negative experiences, whether through becoming resolute in them, or confronting them head-on. 

Teenage Halloween is a predominantly queer-identifying group, and their lyrics hone in on both the celebratory and hard parts of this aspect of their experience, while also addressing themes of mental health, existentialism, relationships, and other resentments with society. 

The album opener “Stationary” is a driven statement of frustration for seeking and trying to live up to the perceptions set by others. Henderiks chants lines like “I crave validation” in a way that sounds like they are seeking to tackle this societal element of reassurance from others. Moments at the end of the track amplify this notion by Henderiks’ isolated voice to be closed out by a fittingly triumphant mix of guitar and saxophone harmony, along with a drum crescendo. 

“Holes” feels familiar to the proceeding “Stationary.” Bassist Tricia Marshalls adds captivating vocals that complement those of Henderiks. The lyrics convey a similar message about frustrations with society and reflections on identity, but told through a different experience, something the band does really well on the record, as heard on “Figwit.” The song is a contrasting experience of pride: “I am starving for a world without ridicule.”   

The theme of finding peace with yourself through being vulnerable appears again on “Drown.” All the instruments play remarkably well together, with a catchy lead guitar line that finds the company of hard-hitting drums and layered rhythm.

A standout both in terms of lyrics and melody, “Sweat” is a heartbreakingly unique expression of love for someone. Sonically, it is an epic track that feels instrumentally gentle and turns to urgency by the ending. Sentiments against capitalism, injustice and repression of self-expression are scattered throughout lyrics on the record, and on “Sweat” there is an element of intimacy in wanting to protect someone from all this bad in the world.  “I love you so much I would die for you / and the current state in the world I wish I could undo.” A moment on the track shines through with the record’s holistic culmination of themes in the lyrics “Hope you can find a safe place inside your head.” So much of the record circles around not having peace of mind, so this pivot to wishing for someone else to have one encapsulates Teenage Halloween’s desire for others to draw on their experiences and find comfort within them. 

Teenage Halloween is a brave and inspiring account of personal experience that invites listeners to find a connection, especially with topics that can be hard to put into words. Their sound is exciting and sets them apart from others in DIY: they are doing punk-pop right and in their own, care-free way. As a listener, if you don’t specifically connect with their narratives, you will nonetheless feel like you’re with them on this journey of navigating the complexities of our society and its conflicts with self-expression, their energetic tunes lighting the way.

Listen to Teenage Halloween below, and grab a download or order a vinyl copy here.

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