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Album review: Youth Lagoon hones intense emotion, expanded sound with ‘Wondrous Bughouse’

Youth Lagoon, the bedroom pop act of Trevor Powers, blew up a couple years ago with the release of its first record, “The Year of Hibernation.” That album was a spacey, atmospheric record, spread out with the use of as few notes as possible on each song. The songs would have served as the perfect background noise to the mountainous Idaho landscape where Powers grew up. It was beautiful – a record that conveys so much emotion on the banking of basic timbres.

Powers has made strong shifts since that 2011 release. With his second album, “Wondrous Bughouse,” we find Powers not only taking on much more instrumentation, but also venturing into a more psychedelic space – all while maintaining the same sense of melody and approachability. 

The record opens with a dissonant piece in the form of “Through Mind and Back.” “Through Mind” bubbles and spits, taking on a more organic texture only to be blasted away by the humorously titled “Mute.” These first two tracks of “Wondrous Bughouse” present the aforementioned changes in Powers’ music. The opening song is more experimental than the majority of Youth Lagoon’s other songs, and “Mute” is embellished with a variety of voices that were unheard in Powers’ first release. 

The psychedelic aspect of “Wondrous Bughouse” is particularly resonant in this record. On “Attic Doctor,” Powers sings with a reverberating voice. His voice lies on top of wobbly synthesizers and a backing guitar melody affected by tremolo. Not to mention the almost vintage, sci-fi effects that pop in and out of the tune. “Dropla,” the album’s current single, appears in a similar manner with the quirkiest hook on the record. 

“The Bath” is the quietest song of the album. It could have easily been a cut from Youth Lagoon’s first album – it has a similar minimalist appeal as “The Year of Hibernation’s” tune “Cannons,” with Powers sounding just as shy and downtrodden here as he does on his first album. 

Powers has a knack for inflecting intense emotion in a completely quiet yet grandiose manner on “The Year of Hibernation.” “Raspberry Cane,” the next-to-last track of “Wondrous Bughouse,” invokes those characteristics, save the quiet aspect. There’s an arc to “Raspberry Cane” – it does build up to some profound chorus parts – but this song seems to be Powers’ finishing touch to his new album, the iconic piece that represents Youth Lagoon’s new direction. 

“Raspberry Cane” begins with a mopey Powers croon, followed by a mimicking guitar. The rest of the song’s timbres jump in shortly after to help construct the song, giving Powers a full-blown sound. The overarching psychedelic quality is still around, and Powers is dabbling with the standard rock texture on the song (and then some, as the synth sounds explain.) However, Powers never gives up the earnest quality of his music – the familiar melodies and constructions that brought Youth Lagoon to acclaim. Thus, Powers proves that he has expanded the sound of his music, but he is not distancing himself from it. 


Grade: A-

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