Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation Review
Youth Lagoon is the nom de pop of Boise-based 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist and dream pop wizard Trevor Powers, who has spent the better part of 2011 garnering blog and critic buzz for his delicate, spaced-out indie pop ballads. His 8-song debut, The Year of Hibernation, is a perfect exercise in fuzzy bedroom pop a kin to groups like Perfume Genius, Washed Out and Pure X. Powers’ compositions are build around soft piano and synths, his fragile, boyish vocals and drum machine snare snaps, most of which are slowly escalating tracks that conclude with climactic, hard-hitting finishes. His self-released debut was recently caught the attention of Fat Possum, who will release the album on September 27.
Although “lo-fi” is a term that will get tagged to Powers’ music, it’s one that should be taken more loosely. The archetype for many tracks sees Powers pushing his lo-fi soundscapes and boundaries to the breaking point. “July,” for example, starts out in insular shoegazer territory, but then he charges up the beats and samples to a thundering climax around the jangly washy guitars and his soaring, boyish vocals. Like the mountainous region these songs originate, Powers stretches his songs to lofty vastness and openness, forcing the ‘bedroom’ aesthetic to only be how they came to fruition. And this isn’t more so on the closer, “The Hunt,” a song that best displays his vocal range and has an instrumental that hints that he probably won’t be constrained by lo-fi aesthetics much longer.
However, at the same time, the songs do have a sort of distant, coming-from-another-room feel that puts them in the same league as a group like the Cocteau Twins. That dissonance, mixed with his echo-y vocals, give more the tracks an overall ghostly feel (See: “Cannons” and “Daydream”). Elsewhere, a song like “Seventeen” shows Powers constructing a song one element at a time. Opening first with just a piano before wobbly synths and guitars are layered on top, the song then takes off when the bass and drums are triggered and the catchy vocal hook takes flight.
The Year of Hibernation really is a seamless album from start to finish. On repeated listens, it’s easy, and enjoyable, to get lost in Powers’ lofty haze and bedroom loneliness – It’s an album best suited for late night road trips. Youth Lagoon is one of my favorite breakouts of 2011 and I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes his sound next.