Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Dream Pop, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Trevor Powers doesn't come off as older and wiser than his 23 years: just look at any picture of him, with his slight build and cherubic mop of curls, or take one listen to his nasal, keening voice. Likewise, his heartfelt 2011 debut The Year of Hibernation dealt more in truth and honesty than profundity or authority, skirting cliché while affecting people in meaningful ways. These qualities are about the only things that haven't changed for Youth Lagoon on Wondrous Bughouse.
We first dipped our toes into the Youth Lagoon with 2011’s mesmeric The Year Of Hibernation, a minimalist crawl through ‘gazey drone and bedroom beats that was as hypnotic as it was emotive. For his second record, Idaho native Trevor Powers has stepped away from the DIY aesthetic of his bedsit world and ventured into the studio proper with well-regarded producer Ben H Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) to create a technicolour dream of an album, drenched to the soul in lysergide, sometimes bumping into brilliance, sometimes pouring out like miles of unspooling tape onto the studio floor, uncontained and uncontrollable. The destination of our journey is indicated very clearly, very early on: the rhythm-free but not formless ‘Through The Mind and Back’ is a disarming, alien amble through the recesses of the processor, a warm strange and tasty entrée that leads you to ‘Mute’ which is where it becomes obvious that the barriers of VHS-pop have been broken here; it’s a strongly psychedelic, deranged rainbow puke of a song most strongly reminiscent of David Baker period Mercury Rev as it churns and swirls with naivety and threat, a mass of jutting soundwaves fucking your stupid ears off.
Youth Lagoon, aka 23-year-old Trevor Powers, became a household name in indie rock thanks to his haunting 2011 debut, The Year Of Hibernation. The ghosts of that album creep into his latest effort, but this time his whispery vocals and synth lines aren't cloaked in a hazy glow. With a sturdier voice, fuller instrumentation and longer songs that often sprawl past the five-minute mark, Powers keeps the emotional weight intact but seems more confident as a songwriter.
I don’t know what insect Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers had in mind when conceptualizing his bughouse, but if I had to guess, I would say he was thinking of caterpillars and butterflies. Caterpillars start out in this world as squirmy, feeble, nervous beings whose world consists largely of a hearty tree trunk they inhabit, only to eventually hibernate in a self-made chrysalis before emerging as a glorious, elegant butterfly. And even though this winged creature is more striking than ever and can experience the world from vantage points not possible before, you can still see the timid, wriggly little life form it once was at its core.
If you’re going to do the whole nostalgic bedroom thing, might as well own up and do it all the way. This has been the story of Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers, hailing from the tightly knit music scene of Boise, Idaho, and writing personal songs about inward thoughts that happen to manifest themselves in the form of anthemic synth-pop outpourings. It’s a small operation with surprisingly big results.
Down the rabbit-hole, Alice encounters a series of bizarre whimsies in Wonderland, including a Mad Hatters’ demented tea party and the horrific realization that her body is not static, as it shifts from tiny to towering in a matter of minutes. Although it’s speculated that Lewis Carroll’s classic tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland may or may not have been written as an extended metaphor for an acid trip, the mere wonder of one person’s imagination becomes visceral on the page, resonating forever in our minds. Idaho native Trevor Powers, known more by his moniker Youth Lagoon, has a rampant imagination of his own not unlike Alice’s.
Wondrous Bughouse is the second album from Trevor Powers, a 23-year-old from Idaho who makes records under the name Youth Lagoon. This new album – the follow-up to 2011’s The Year Of Hibernation – is, according to Powers, the product of “becoming more fascinated with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world”. Powers’ spiritually-minded approach manifests itself in music which is, unsurprisingly, unlikely to trouble the Heart FM playlist any time soon.
Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers snuck onto the scene a year and a half ago, a quiet but brilliantly talented composer. He impressed us all with his first release, The Year of Hibernation. But on his sophomore record, Wondrous Bughouse, the whispery, barely-there 22-year-old that we came to know on his last record has been replaced by someone slightly more confident, albeit a bit more confused.
Youth Lagoon's 2011 debut, The Year of Hibernation, earned praise for its fragile intimacy, but songwriter Trevor Powers has achieved something much grander and more ambitious with Wondrous Bughouse. The keyboards and synthetic beats have been replaced by ornate, full-band arrangements overlaid with a dense tapestry of swirling overdubs and warped psychedelia, courtesy of producer Ben H. Allen.
Youth Lagoon's second album, Wondrous Bughouse, lives up to the first part of its name: the sheer amount of sounds Trevor Powers packs into these songs certainly inspire wonder. The Year of Hibernation hinted at the sonic depth and detail displayed here, but the size and polish of Wondrous Bughouse's arrangements make the album perfect for listening to under headphones, where every gurgling keyboard and rippling echo can really come to life. Songs like "Mute" show how far Powers has come since his debut album: full of sparkling guitars and limpid synths, it's a sonic cathedral rather than the hazy cocoons that used to surround his barely audible vocals.
Love The Flaming Lips ‘Do You Realize??’, but fall into an existential crisis when it goes “Do you realise, that everyone you know, someday, will die”? In that case, the second album in as many years by San Diego’s hipster-psych man Youth Lagoon is just the thing. The song ‘Dropla’ essentially fills the same niche but repeats the much cheerier phrase, “You will never die” ad infinitum. It’s the best track on an album of disorientating pop.
Youth LagoonWondrous Bughouse[Fat Possum; 2013]By Brendan Frank; March 4, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThere’s an old saying that the places we’ve never known are the ones we miss the most, a feeling that Youth Lagoon was certainly plugged into on The Year of Hibernation. Listening to the debut album from Trevor Powers’ solo musical project was almost like watching home movies from his youth. Operating with the underlying suspicion that our memories and our pasts can be distinct sets of facts, it was candid but deceptively deep terrain for a 22-year-old.
When Youth Lagoon’s captivating debut, The Year of Hibernation, dropped in 2011, each and every rave review seemed to mention Trevor Powers’s age. And rightfully so—twenty-one at the time, Powers already showed off a masterful sense of pop dynamics, how to write songs with builds as massive as the mountain ranges near his Idaho home, melodies as clear and crystalline as a church bell. And there was a sense of spiritual yearning in those tracks, too, the warble in Powers’s youthful voice reaching tentatively out toward some sense of communion, a hunger for belonging.
My first exposure to Youth Lagoon (a.k.a. Trevor Powers) was the under-saturated video for “Montana,” which managed to elevate a simple, piano-based cut from his debut, The Year of Hibernation, into a rather heart-wrenching odyssey of forgone Americana. The song is as good as any an example of Powers’s music: inherently visual, perhaps even cinematic, with a heavy use of grainy percussive sounds to punctuate all of the blustery reverb.
When ambition exceeds talent, the results can be dispiriting, embarrassing, hilarious or all three simultaneously. However, when talent is unduly forced and the elements rather crudely recycled into a pale copy the results are only dispiriting. Think Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside followed by Lionheart. Yet when an original intelligence progresses, emotionally and creatively, with an independent spirit manifesting itself in new ways, the consequences can be exhilarating.
After a decade marked by social digitization, political alienation, and the monetization of indie, Youth Lagoon, the musical persona of Boise, Idaho’s 22-year-old Trevor Powers, has emerged with a knack for channeling the insecurities and frustrations of existing in this cultural context. His own bittersweet introspection is made relatable by its childlike sincerity and innocence. Wondrous Bughouse is a study on daydreams, inspiration, and silver linings.
Youth Lagoon’s debut album, ‘Years Of Hibernation’, was bedroom pop at its most fragile, shy and beautiful. It sounded at times like Trevor Powers was 10-yards away from the mic, too shy to come closer, his piano was submerged beneath oceans.His dizzy, submerged piano melodies managed to convey the beauty he couldn’t get across with words. Powers was keen to stress that he did his talking through his music.
Veronica Falls Waiting for Something to Happen. “I won’t look back anymore,” the English band Veronica Falls promises, in nicely meshed boys-and-girls harmony, on its second album, “Waiting for Something to Happen” (Slumberland). Which may be disingenuous since Veronica Falls very much ….
When you use the label bedroom music, it indicates that what you’re hearing is soft and introspective. It suggests something unpolished but in a positive, raw and honest way. You wouldn’t be wrong to call 2011’s The Year Of Hibernation, Trevor Powers’s debut album as Youth Lagoon, a collection of bedroom music: No, Powers didn’t actually write it all in his bedroom in Boise, ID, but his memorably melodic swirls of songs had that quiet, do-it-yourself-er quality.