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. “I’m not a gifted speaker, so explaining things is difficult for me. But music always makes sense.’
And now his sophomore album, ‘Wondrous Bughouse’, sees him articulate his vision even more dazzlingly. From the colorful Henry Darger-esque cover onwards, this is still as beautifully out of focus as that debut but feels that much brighter and more vibrant.
It’s the sound of Powers rising through the waters, his piano carried skywards by balloons. The sounds are bolder, the piano lines wonkier and wobblier than before and his vocals more confident as he belts out huge choruses. It takes the elements of The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev ‘Deserter’s Song’ that were evident on ‘…Hibernation’ and adds Phil Spector choruses and brighter splashes of colour.
But just like the best albums do, it merges these outgoing, triumphalist melodies with introspective, darker lyrics. While he wrote the album, Powers became fascinated by the metaphysical universe. The result is an album of wide-eyed cosmic wonderment, based on dysphoria and the intricacies of the human mind.
This idea of dysphoria permeates every note and word of the album. ‘Third Dystopia’ starts like the weirdest kids TV theme tune you’ll ever hear, before Powers powerfully and cathartically cries out “evil is in the air, I’m not coming out.”
Likewise ‘Dropla’, the first song we got a taste of for this album, employs swelling, tie-dye orchestration to imbue the line “you’ll never die” with an almost celebratory feel, though this weird jubilation is undermined by the line ‘you weren’t there when I needed.’
‘Mute’s’ lazy, effortless melodies and its squelching melody, that sounds like it could have been taken from Blur’s ‘Think Tank’, gives the impression that Powers’ head is high up in the clouds. Elsewhere the waltz of ‘Attic Doctor’ is the soundtrack to a carousel ride through a bizarre fairground, while on the more submerged ‘The Bath’, the lost-in-space, claustrophobic feel shouldn’t sound as alluring as it does.
It’s that idea sums up this utterly beguiling record. As effortlessly rich as ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ seems for the listener, it’s evident this record took Powers to places he wishes he’d never been. Darkness has never sounded so gloriously technicolor.
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