“There’s nothing left to say through Youth Lagoon.” That’s how Trevor Powers left it last night in a message posted online, bringing his moniker, which created three albums across the last five years, to an end.
Powers released his first album as Youth Lagoon in 2011. ‘The Year of Hibernation’ was, and is, a collection of songs lo-fi and minimal, but full of heart. They can, indeed, probably be best described as ‘bedroom-pop’, but that term doesn’t and shouldn’t have defined Powers’ entire tenure as Youth Lagoon, or pre-determined his next steps after his debut, and it’s a term and a genre that Powers has distanced himself from.
Possibly the perfect album for that self-indulgent midnight walk through the city, playing the comforting, knowing companion, ‘The Year of Hibernation’ set Youth Lagoon out as an artist who exclusively looked inward while helping others to do the same. As wonderful at this job it remains, it created a fixed canvas for what Powers could create next as Youth Lagoon, and what his listeners wanted and needed from him.
Speaking to DIY about his now-final album as Youth Lagoon, ‘Savage Hills Ballroom’, last year, Powers talked of how peoples’ interpretations of himself as a person and an artist based on ‘The Year of Hibernation’ worked against him through its 2013 follow-up ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ and up to this day, saying: “I feel like I haven’t truly been an internal artist, in terms of shutting myself away, since ‘The Year of Hibernation’ came out. My process was extremely different even going into ‘Wondrous Bughouse’, and I feel like that album as a whole was definitely trying to communicate too. “I get so tired of the way a lot of people perceive me as a freak and a loner that doesn’t hang out with anyone. It’s all bullshit. I’ve been trying to communicate through my music for a long time.”
‘Highway Patrol Stun Gun’ (from ‘Savage Hills Ballroom’)
“Leashes have been placed around the necks of many a band with such a distinctive, successful debut.”
In his message leaving Youth Lagoon behind, Powers referenced a “leash around your neck” with regards to the restrictions his first moves as Youth Lagoon put on any future output for the act, and called himself a hostage because of such. It’s true of many artists, constantly pushed to recreate those tender first steps of a debut album, with very little room on the consumer’s part to allow any deviation and artistic progression. It’s only really since ‘AM’, say, that Arctic Monkeys have fully been able to shake calls for ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ pt. 2 to be created, and leashes have been placed around the necks of many a band with such a distinctive, successful debut.
Powers calls the three albums he leaves behind as Youth Lagoon a “transitional trilogy”, and now it’s been revealed that no more material will be added to the set, the progression between the albums and themes that tie them together become clearer than ever. A trilogy it may have always intended to be, with ‘Savage Hills Ballroom’ its grand, glorious finale. ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ followed ‘The Year of Hibernation’ as a wide-eyed trip with the largest of ambitions, reacting against its predecessor’s insular nature. It’s a record that should’ve been allowed to speak for itself.
“Dropping the moniker and continuing in a different guise, away from preconceptions and pigeonholes, allows Powers to experiment.”
The grand visions that were set for ‘Savage Hills Ballrom’ are sure to inhabit whatever Trevor Powers creates next, and although the trilogy that Youth Lagoon created is over, the progression shown across its five years points to something bigger, grander and free of inhibitions to come. In his own words, there’s a much larger mountain he wants to ascend.
Youth Lagoon’s fast-approaching UK and European tour will be Powers’ last in this form, and are set to be a fitting send-off to a project that’s produced three ever-changing, interesting, brilliant albums. Powers says this isn’t nearly the end for him in terms of musical output - just as Youth Lagoon - and if dropping the moniker and continuing in a different guise, away from preconceptions and pigeonholes, allows him to experiment, change and reinvent without the expectation that caused him so much frustration on ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ and ‘Savage Hills Ballroom’, then it’s something we should all be excited about.