Youth Lagoon released one of the surprise sleeper hits of 2011 with debut album The Year of Hibernation. Written and performed in its entirety by Idaho native Trevor Powers, it was a debut to rank up there with the very best records of 2011 - melancholy, low-fi bedroom pop that revelled in an adherence to simple arrangements and nostalgia tinged melodies. Possessing a beguiling charm that belied its relatively modest budget and indie sound, The Year of Hibernation propelled Powers out of the bedroom into the big bad world of the music business as his collection of earnest songs began to stir up significant interest.
His sophomore release Wondrous Bughouse is a far more expansive and ambitious effort; the trippy, psychedelic, experimental product of a creative and restless mind that marks a big leap forward for Powers. If his debut represented the first tentative and faltering steps of a songwriter trying to make sense of the world around him, this follow up is a more confident affair, drenched in colour and light and a hunger to explore different sounds and lyrical themes.
The influence of Animal Collective, Sparklehorse and Flaming Lips can be heard in these songs as Powers draws on every weird and wonderful sound at his disposal. 'Living in a 3D world' is the very first line Powers sings on this album and there could be no more apt opener – this is a kaleidoscopic journey from the first note to the last. Youth Lagoon are very much about making great pop music, so melody is never sacrificed at the expense of studio trickery and sonic experimentation – songs like 'Mute', 'Pelican Man' and 'Third Dystopia' are crammed with shimmering hooks and hummable melodies. The wonderfully poignant 'Dropla' is closest in spirit to the warmth and yearning of his debut while the eerie, carnival waltz of 'Daisyphobia' closes the album on a fittingly slanted and enchanted note.
Wondrous Bughouse is quite a journey -hile it may lack some of the low-key charm of its predecessor, it is a logical yet curious and startling next step for an artist who might just prove to be something very special indeed.
Review by Paul Page