Sometime in the last couple of years, British Columbia’s Teen Daze (Jamison) disclosed his last name (Isaak) and relocated to Abbotsford, a quieter part of the Fraser Valley he’s called home the entire time he’s been releasing music as Teen Daze (2010-present).

And in these last seven years, Isaak’s accumulated an impressive body of melodic and ambient pop work. His last two albums have largely emphasized the natural world in its utopic glory, and Themes for a Dying Earth, out February 10 via FLORA, Isaak’s own imprint, continues the trend with a sobering message.

More and more lately, music and climate change — the two things I spend 99% of my days concerned about — seem to be combining, perhaps displaying the magnitude and urgency of our current volatile state. I say this, acknowledging that climate change is hardly a sexy topic (the inconvenient truth for all of us climate scientists and activists) and that it may simply be now infiltrating music because it is now infiltrating everything. In the same way that popular art and media celebrating cultural diversity began commenting on cultural oppression, art inspired by nature is now taking on a more political tone that has become increasingly intimate and relatable.

“I’ve made my share of summery pop music,” Isaak told Bandcamp’s Blake Gillespie about listening to his early work. “When I think about it now, I hear a privilege. What a crazy time we were living in, that you could make a record like that and it would be totally accepted?”

In contrast, the scant vocals spread across 6/10 tracks on Themes pass through stages: the lyrics on “Cycle,” “Becoming,” and “Lost” seek to understand…

We’ll climb a tree, and reach a peak, inside each other’s hearts. And swim the lake, confront the things, that are tearing us apart.

Whereas those on “First Rain” (featuring S. Carey) and “Rising” anticipate losses:

An ending we created, nothing left to save.
What a beautiful way to watch our bodies fade.
A single wave could drown the whole world away.

Before Themes ends with its final lyrics in a wash,

I saw water flowing down from heaven.

But as valiant as Isaak’s efforts are, I imagine Teen Daze’s subtle melodic pop tendencies will continue to fly conspicuously under the radar. Themes will be a complete and dear cycle to those who care to listen carefully, and unimpressive to the standard passerby. (As have been nature’s cries.) Perhaps give it a spin with this short documentary and the album’s complete film companion, both created with the help of local filmmaker Casey Kowalchuk (who also hails from Abbotsford, BC).

Teen Daze will be performing with fellow Canadian outfit Mozart’s Sister next Saturday 2/24 at San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern as part of Noise Pop’s 25th Anniversary Festival celebration.

Article by Joanna Jiang

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