It’s a perfectly reasonable plan of PR attack to spin a new album from a fledgling songwriter as a collaboration with a seasoned musician and producer. Fine and dandy, makes sense. Because John Vanderslice is much more of a name—in more ways than one—than Jamison, the surname-less musician from Abbotsford, British Columbia, that goes by Teen Daze. And on the new Morning World he is carried along on a magic-carpet ride to the indie-pop universe that Vanderslice propagates, as the pair tightens and polishes the fluttery ambient-electronic bedroom tracks Jamison raised himself on.
It can be a mixed bag, though. What makes Teen Daze’s 2010 EP, Four More Years, so pleasant and joyous is that it exists in a hazy middle ground between straight-up pop and danceable producerisms. The vocals are buried beneath a shimmery sheen of smoldering synth sounds and drum-circle rhythms—a blend that can get a tad “everything is beautiful” at times but one that still bubbles with excitement and enough IDM peculiarities to keep it from floating off into the ether. Since the release of that EP, Jamison has been on an upward tick, releasing a series of singles, remixes, and EPs, as well as the awesome all-ambient-electro, all-home-produced album Glacier in 2013, which shows off just how far he’s come in constructing an almost tangible vibe rather than just a series of tracks for a record to be sold at a merch booth.
Beginning with the high-tension chorus of strings on Morning World’s “Valley of Gardens”—and followed by ever-so-delicate drumming—and the slight creaking open of the bedroom door by Teen Daze. The approach is delicate but definitely calculated, at least in part, by Vanderslice, as Jamison’s vocals are no longer used as another instrument with which to stack an ethereal sound atop of other ethereal sounds, but an actual voice that’s pushed up front in the mix. The lyrics stick with the theme of exploring the transformative qualities of nature and all the beauty that lies therein, but Jamison’s airy melodies are now the centerpiece, for better or worse.
The album skates from tumbling tracks like “Pink” and “Morning World”—which are reminiscent of the slightly math indie-rock sound of the solid Polyvinyl band Aloha—to a jam like “It Starts At The Water,” which features static washes floating in and out of the atmosphere while an underground buzz burrows beneath a simple, chugging beat. Jamison’s still-timid vocals are at their catchiest on “It Starts At The Water,” which makes it all the more strange to follow it up with a kind of mealy, mostly instrumental indie-rock number (“Post Storm”) that doesn’t really go anywhere before devolving into an orchestral, Explosions In The Sky-like build. And though “You Said” does seam together both eras of the Teen Daze in a cool way—cloudy electronics are led by a funky bass-and-guitar rock—the occurrences on the album as a whole are far less frequent than they should be.