I’ll admit it, I wasn’t impressed with Youth Lagoon’s last album. In fact, it took me a few tries to even get through the whole of The Year of Hibernation. That’s not to say that I thought it was horrible. In fact, I could hear real potential there. But listening to that record, it felt like coming across someone’s audio diary and creepily listening to it as they sat in the next room crying themselves to sleep. It was startlingly honest and intimate. As if Trevor Powers was locked inside his own head, whispering quietly to himself as he tinkered on a toy piano, all the while P. Diddy programmed bass-tastic beats in the background. It was an odd combination of intimacy and audacity.
And his voice?
Well, he sounds so meek and small slathered in a grainy reverb that barely allows his voice to escape long enough to tickle our eardrums. It’s like a ghost whispering to us in the middle of the night. Maybe that was the effect Powers was going for, I don’t know. I do know this; despite my lack of connection with that record, I still felt like I wanted to protect the kid. I wanted to be Adam Baldwin to his Chris Makepeace. I wanted to push the bully to the ground that picked on him at recess. It’s the overall vulnerability that makes Youth Lagoon’s music appealing and endearing. I just wish there was a little more sonic meat on that musical bone, if you will.
A couple months ago was the announcement of Youth Lagoon’s new album Wondrous Bughouse, produced by Ben Allen(Animal Collective, Deerhunter). After the first listen of lead single ‘Dropla’ it felt like the clouds broke apart and a ray of melancholy light shone through. This is Trevor Powers. A little guy with a big soul. He’s retained that intimate strain in his voice, but has surrounded himself with a beautifully massive sound, heavy on bass, synths, and an airiness to the production(think Deerhunter’s Microcastle for a reference point). It’s big, emotional, spiritual, and quite moving. Powers’ refrain “you’ll never die, you’ll never die, you’ll never die” is brought to another level of emotional release. It’s a meditation on mortality that is quite beautiful, and wouldn’t have had the heft that it possesses had it been recorded as an intimate bedroom 4-track production. Ben Allen has given Trevor Powers the means to become the big idea artist this song shows he truly is.
‘Mute’ is the second track off of Wondrous Bughouse and it proves the first track is no fluke. Equally emotionally hefty and filled with lush production, Powers comes across like a younger Bradford Cox in the vocal department. Then two minutes in it’s as if Panda Bear came in to help on the sonic textures. It’s a aural maze that you never want to find the exit to.
So I can say that I’m officially a Youth Lagoon fan. My instinct was that Trevor Powers had something special, but the vehicle in expressing that something special wasn’t resonating with me. But with Wondrous Bughouse, I’m convinced I’m now seeing the light. Be prepared for his beautiful light as well. Wondrous Bughouse comes out March 5th on Fat Possum records.