Following 2015's Morning World, a just OK effort that found Teen Daze traveling to John Vanderslice's San Francisco studio and writing guitar-centric indie pop, the Vancouver-based musician known as Jamison returns to his familiar ambient dream pop territory with the much better Themes for Dying Earth. Morning World was a noble attempt to learn the ins and outs of recording in an all-analog studio as opposed to digitally recording everything at home, but it ended up sounding like an experiment. Themes for Dying Earth sounds much more natural; here, Jamison returns to his strengths, but the discipline of his previous experience hasn't worn off on him. Lush synthesizers and airy vocals are at the forefront of this album, as on most of his releases, but they're seamlessly intertwined with acoustic instruments and live drums as well as programmed beats. While the general mood is still one of relaxation, the rhythms are far more energetic and detailed than on previous Teen Daze recordings, particularly when the drums ecstatically rush during the end of opening tune "Cycles." The album feels more natural in the sense of its lyrical themes, as Jamison reflects on his concerns about subjects such as climate change. Nature imagery has always been present in his lyrics, song titles, and album artwork, but here it seems to have more of a purpose. Instead of taking to a soapbox and aggressively making a stance, however, he takes a hopeful, optimistic view. He's helped out by several guests, including guitarist Dustin Wong, who works his magic on the shimmering, blissful "Cherry Blossoms," and S. Carey, who calmly croons over the Jon & Vangelis-like new age pop of "First Rain." Other songs have more of a Balearic groove to them, such as the easygoing yacht pop of "Rising" (with Sound of Ceres) and the slightly trippier "Lost" (with Nadia Hulett). "Water in Heaven" buries crushed, glitchy beats under icy yet shining synths, resulting in one of the album's most hypnotic pieces -- its six minutes seem to pass by in just a few moments. The slowly paced synth waves and soft bass pulsations of "Breath" close out this enjoyable album.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson