This creative debut by Brooklyn-based pop experimentalists Test Subjects provides an audiovisual ball of catchy nostalgia.
The band formed in New York City in 2018 when classically trained opera-singer Melody English met producer Sam Glick in his Brooklyn studio to record her own solo project. They shared stories of their teenage years and created endless social-scientific concoctions that later became the basis of their album Study. With recalls of Pink Floyd and even Britney Spears, this album takes listeners on an ASMR trip down memory lane to the teenage experience.
The album begins with the intro ‘Study’ which not only introduces the album and the band as test subjects but also welcomes the listeners to the nostalgia of their teenage years. The woman speaking to Glick in the intro says “it’s not easy to find people who are willing to go back” insinuating that there are good and bad parts of being a teenager. For instance, having to study. Some enjoyed it especially in a group project, while some didn’t and rather were party animals. The rest of the album walks the listener through major experiences that every teenager goes through, or should I say, has gone through.
The next three tracks revisit moments of a teenage relationship with heavy moments of pure euphoria. ‘Boy next door’ finds Glick as the object of affection for his adoring neighbor. Bringing back the nostalgia of young, sweet, and innocent teenage love. ‘One Last High School Thrill’ and ‘Group Project’ channel the weighing emotions of high school by using familiar sounds such as the thrum of a marching band, cheers of a pep rally, the clapping of chalkboard erasers, and the bubbling of a science lab. The start of this album brings back high school memories effectively guiding the listener with the narrative alone.
The later half of the album is more serious, providing less gags and gaffes in exchange for moments of genuine musicianship. Songs such as ‘Interstate of Mind’ and ‘Tumbleweed’ allow for an indie folk escape for each band member, with Melody English channeling Waxahatchee, and Glick diving into the gruffness of Bon Iver. Although some of the frivolity is lost in this half, these tracks show the versatility of the album. This section may sound different compared to the opening, but there’s never a disconnect between the two halves. Exploring reflection and memory, both internally and externally from the beginning to end.
In the last two tracks, listeners get some hints as to the purpose of this album. On ‘Television (One Of These Days)’, a flowing synth transitions into a poppy guitar. In a chirpy voice, English sings, “Some days I let my life roll by / Watching television / Some days I don’t step outside / It’s like some superstition.” Later, she sings, “One of these days I’ll chase my dreams / I can’t stay holed up here all by myself.” Creating the message that eventually we all have to grow up. The final track, “Party Animals,” almost plays as a curtain call of sorts with its gang vocals and cast party energy. Overall, I see ‘Study’ as a bizarre, confounding, coming-of-age tale with a good depiction of the obsession and repression of American adolescence.