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Album Review: Teen Daze

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We learn as we grow, or so they say. 

While I was knee-deep in my research around Interior, I learned that electronic music is a really, really vast field. In fact, it has so many layers that you can get lost just in reading about the most popular ones (like any music genre – surprise, surprise). 

Now, if you keep up with electronic music, the name Teen Daze probably sounds familiar. 

As someone who doesn’t keep track of electronic music, just a couple of weeks ago, I would have thought that Teen Daze was a shoegaze-pop band.

Well, not anymore. 

And today, like a proud student, I can say that Teen Daze, real name Jamison Isaak, is a Canadian electronic musician who’s been impressing listeners with his unique brand of dreamy ambient music. His latest albums have received rave reviews, and he has played shows in the United States, Europe, and Canada. 

Today, we will talk (I will ramble, and hopefully, you will read) about his latest release, Interior.

Teen Daze performing live

You can stream Interior on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music and Bandcamp.

As soon as the first notes of “Last Time in this Place” start, you know it’s going to be something special. The song starts off with a distant, misty texture that becomes more and more clear as the song progresses. It is a peculiar introduction, feeling equally ominous and inviting. What is impressive in this case is the way Teen Daze combines the subtle synths with Joseph Shabason’s airy saxophone to create a unique atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re walking through an unknown forest.

It’s an awesome intro and it perfectly serves the role of making you curious about what’s to come next. 

In this case, next comes “Swimming.” 

Now, if I have to think of a particular feeling I would associate with “Swimming”, it would be something close to laying back on a beach during sunset, reminiscing about life. And don’t get it wrong, we are not talking about a sleepy, melancholic track. In fact, if there is anything on Interior that resembles a dancefloor-kind-of-jumpy song, “Swimming” would be the top contender. 

It is a 6-minute, uptempo meditation, slowly building and soaring towards an unforgettable string-section break in the middle of the track, going uphill from there. It is also a showcase of Teen Daze’s capabilities as both a producer adept in control and restraint.

The track manages to be interesting and captivating without countless layers of synths, beat drops and effects jumping around the corner in every 30 seconds. His ability to build tension throughout the song invites listeners to listen for subtleties like the synthesizer tones that mimic the slowing rhythm of a heartbeat or drum machine that roll into syncopation. 

The third track, “Nite Run”, is not as extensive as “Swimming”, but is not by any means a let down. More than that, it attains the same tonality of a dancy, almost poppy atmosphere, adding the first vocals we hear on Interior on top of the music. 

The instrumental kicks off with some smooth bass riff and is quick to introduce the upbeat drums that will continue to build as the song goes on. It sounds like you are taken on a night cruise through dark, underground tunnels and pathways.

More than any other song, it feels like a  hypnotic homage to a recently gone era of dance & house music (think early Daft Punk). 

And this is why the opening of “Nowhere” comes off as such a surprise. You would think that the fourth track on this album would be in line with the ones before it, but it says hello with a lengthy, psychedelic intro instead. And just as you start thinking this is Teen Daze’s “experimental” track consisting of 8-minutes of skulking ambience, the ride cymbal starts creeping in. 

It is from that point on, that “Nowhere” starts to build up.  Yes, this is a risky move, but in this case, the risk pays off in spades. The result is one of the more interesting tracks on Interior. 

Actually, “Nowhere” along with the title track of the album, “Interior” are also the best examples of what Teen Daze is doing on the album. That is, infusing his compositions with specific ambience and atmosphere that has distant echoes of Brian Eno on the one hand, and making dynamic, driving music to dance to. 

Yes, it is a hard balance to achieve, but somehow, Interior hits that spot with relative ease.  

“Still Wandering” is the only real real interlude on the LP. It is a two minute transition between the mid and last part of Interior. Soaked in distant synths and chopped up vocals, it does a fine job in setting the stage for the next track. 

Which brings us to “2 AM (Real Love)”, which is the only vocal feature in Interior. Cecile Believe, an amazing artist in her own right, lends her voice for a track that teleports you right in the middle of a dance floor in a weird, but charming after-hours disco club. It is also a great example of how aptly Teen Daze uses layering in his music. 

What starts off as a simple leading synth melody over a straight-forward drum beat evolves into something else. It soon morphs into a full-fledged house/disco track with one of the funkiest basslines of the entire LP. And once you hear that piano sequence near the end of the song (don’t worry, you will know it), it becomes damn hard to resist the charm of the track’s self aware old-school emulation. 

“Translation” marks the final minutes of Interior. With it, the album doesn’t end so much with a bang, but with a summary, or an encapsulation, a reminder of the purpose of the whole journey that the LP is. 

That being said, “Translation” is more than worthy to be the album’s closer. The title couldn’t be more appropriate. It brings the listener back to the beginning, just as it should: like a translation of Teen Daze’s thoughts, feelings, influences and aspirations into music. It’s a nod to some of his favorite artists as well as an encapsulation of his own style that he has crafted.

“Translation” is both melancholic and yet rejuvenating. It occupies a dream-like space, something like a lively dance floor surrounded by mist. It is poppy and hypnotic. It’s damn good. 

Just like the album.  

You’ll find that Interior has traces of both Eno’s distinctive atmospheric style as well as dance and French house music in its heart and soul. That being said, the album is not ashamed and doesn’t try to hide them. Instead, Teen Daze embraces those influences. 

More than once, the album treads the thin line between paying homage and getting overly-cute with its own posturing, but thankfully, it’s saved by undeniable creative flourishes and top-notch production touches.

Teen Daze’s Interior LP is a beautiful example of music that has both depth and energy. Despite the numerous influences you can hear, the album has its own sound, dynamic and danceable, contemplative and atmospheric. 

It is definitely worth hearing, even if it’s just because it’s a testament to how an artist can carve their own niche and individuality while staying in touch with what made him want to create music in the first place.

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