It’s interesting that Jamison, the man behind the dreamy electronic project Teen Daze, has been calling All Of Us, Together his first real album. After all, it’d be pretty difficult to call it a debut. The dude has been releasing music at a rapid-fire pace for the past 3 years, and 2010’s Four More Years, an 8 song EP that collected some of his best work up until that point, received a pretty decent amount of press and might just be considered one the defining releases of the short-lived chillwave movement.
And there it is. That old buzzword-turned-sour that’s always been so tricky to avoid when talking about Teen Daze’s music. Rising to prominence in the wake of the initial successes of Washed Out, Toro y Moi, and Neon Indian, Teen Daze’s ambient pop tunes sometimes seemed to live in the shadow of the scenes’ relative giants. It was always a wonderful bit of ambient pop, but Four More Years might just have been a bit too hip for its own good. Its nostalgic atmosphere, lo-fi synths, and streaks of reverb were just really conspicuous in a time where stuff like that was already super popular on the web. Now, a decent amount of time after the hype machine has moved on from the movement that spawned his popularity, Teen Daze is at a point where defining his sound is more important than ever.
In this context, Jamison’s “first proper album” could be seen as either a culmination of a few years of work, experience, and growth, or it could be seen as an attempt to move past the connotations of his early work and redefine his own musical fingerprint. In reality, All Of Us, Together flirts a little with both. It still feels distinctly like a Teen Daze record, but it has its fair share of changes and features that distinguish where he is from where he’s already been.
The album’s biggest surprise for longtime listeners will likely be the lack of vocals for the majority of the album. Vocal samples abound, but the first track that obviously and prominently features Jamison’s singing is the second to last on the album, the previously released “The Future.” And this can’t help but come across as a bit of a disappointment at first. Teen Daze has always been a talented producer, but a lot his best songs were dreamy bedroom pop tunes that hinged on simple, catchy vocal melodies and the carefree atmosphere they lended to his instrumentals. At first it’s actually hard not to imagine Jamison’s ethereal, obscured vocal delivery on top of songs like “Late” and “Cold Sand,” tracks that could be vehicles for tunes like “Gone For The Summer” or “Shine On You Crazy Whitecap.”
But once you get over the fact that All Of Us, Together isn’t an extension of Four More Years, it’s a lot easier to appreciate it for what it is: a fun, melodic ambient techno record. It’s not only the lack of vocals that’s changed either. These aren’t tracks that sit around waiting to be backdrops for pop songs. They’re more dense, building into hazy, blissed out house numbers (“The New Balearic,” “Brooklyn Sunburn”), downtempo chillout tracks (“Cold Sand”), and hypnotic ambient (“For Body and Kenzie”). More than anything, the songs on All Of Us, Together progress in new ways.
And even if Teen Daze is shirking away from a few elements of his sound, he’s still working with a larger sonic palette. The microsampling on “Erbstuck,” maybe the best song on the album, is a particularly nice diversion, echoing the minimal techno of artists like The Field while still fitting neatly into All Of Us, Together’s mold. And the woozy bass flutter that forms the backbone of “For Body and Kenzie” has an interestingly sleepy quality that would’ve been disrupted by the inclusion of vocals. And, just in general, the components of Teen Daze’s music tend to hit harder on All Of Us, Together than they have before: the progressions are more momentous, the beats more driving, the synths more idiosyncratic.
In the end, All Of Us, Together still sounds like a bedroom record, and it’s still a bit more promise than delivery. But, changes or no changes, it capitalizes most on the same thing all of Teen Daze’s music has capitalized on: the easy, unassuming, just plain likable nature of the music. It’s a feel that fans of the latest Real Estate record will be familiar with, and it makes this an incredibly easy record to throw on at any given time. The familiar feel also answers some questions about Jamison’s intentions with this record. All Of Us, Together isn’t an attempt to disown his early work and roots. He just made the record he felt like making, and that’s why it so easily matches his best material.