Teen Daze’s music sounds exactly like his name — a collection of hazy, spatial electronica explorations that serve as the ideal musical accompaniment to any Polaroid-documented summer, or a late-night philosophical discussion in a dorm room. That being said, the problem with Teen Daze’s music is not necessarily a question of its musical value, but rather, its artistic purpose.
The Inner Mansions
On his Bandcamp page, Daze describes his many different projects in detail. He notes being inspired by studying philosophy in a remote village in the Swiss Alps for one record, an old book found in a thrift store titled “Utopian Visions” for another and manages to label one project as “glo-fi” and “reverb-drenched.”
The inevitable question arises: Is this man an artist with a legitimate identity or just a guy attempting to play into every existing “indie” cliché in order to appear different? The question hovers over Daze’s second album, The Inner Mansions, a record that feels contrived at many points, but ultimately succeeds as a deep and enjoyable collection of music.
Daze, a young producer and singer hailing from Vancouver, knows how to create a mood. The Inner Mansions is full of distorted and fading vocals, sparse piano chords and soft-hitting electronic beats. “New Life,” the opening track, would have fit perfectly on the soundtrack of “Drive.” Daze’s voice isn’t the strongest, but his wondrous, Clams Casino-esque production easily compensates, creating a worthy introduction for the album.
“Divided Loyalties,” the second song, carries more of a beat than “New Life,” but maintains the same sense of awe, introspection and melancholy. Daze’s lyrics are barely understandable, a theme that runs throughout the album. While this lack of a lyrical foundation is frustrating at times, it underscores the broad instrumental scope of the album and demonstrates how Daze’s work doesn’t rely solely on traditional vocals.
Not only does Daze include two instrumental songs, “Discipleship” and “By Love,” but he places them back-to-back in the middle of the album, providing exactly 12 minutes of pure music without vocals. “Discipleship,” the better of the two, incorporates subtle disco hi-hats mixed with trippy electronica grooves, while “By Love” utilizes an early 1990s Timbaland-style drum beat mixed with a floating harp line. Though the songs are worth the listen, after a while the continuous instrumental becomes extremely monotonous.
“Union,” with Frankie Rose, shakes the album awake with a distorted guitar riff and a small, but noticeable, background vocal contribution by Rose. The song, a standout from the album, sounds like the emotionally unstable love child of Best Coast and Washed Out, with hyperactive guitars in the beginning transitioning into a smooth and celestial breakdown by the end.
There is a fine line, however, between experimental music and simply a bunch of sounds. “Garden 1,” its aptly named sequel “Garden 2” and the closing track, “The Heart of God,” all fall on the wrong side of this line. There is no musical or thematic connection between the bleary, piano-heavy “Garden 1” and the unorganized and vocal-sample ridden “Garden 2.” And “The Heart of God” is a disappointing end for such a spiritual and introspective album — the track sounds more like a mix between choral music and random noise than an actual song, and thus ends the record on a somewhat incomplete note.
The Inner Mansions is proof that, after two years of constantly releasing music, Teen Daze understands what he does best. The album is intriguing, nostalgic and sonically captivating, and is definitely the work of an inspired and thoughtful musician who, as his name implies, is still trying to understand who he is.