Until now, I’ve associated Youth Lagoon with time.
One of the first things I learned about Trevor Powers was that he was young — 22 when I started listening to him in September of 2011. There was also his debut album’s title — The Year of Hibernation. And then there was the fact that, despite his youngness (sorry, I can’t type “youth” and let you all think I’m the kind of person who would make that pun), it was clear that Powers’ songs looked backward in time, with nostalgic glances toward “fireworks on the 4th of July” and his ’96 Buick. In fact, “nostalgia” became something of a buzzword for the album. A sticky descriptor. A consensus adjective. Here was this 22-year-old pining for the past, while so many of us sit around pining for our early 20’s. (The idea certainly drew me in.)
I don’t mean to suggest that this analysis wasn’t/isn’t apt. Powers himself has said that the name of his project is based on feelings of nostalgia. But I wonder if his years, or relative lack of them, caused this one quality to loom overly large in people’s minds. There was more to The Year of Hibernation than longing for the past. There were brilliant dynamic relationships… memorable melodies… uplifting builds… Besides, nostalgia, by nature, isn’t totally positive. It’s unavoidable — enjoyable on some levels — but it’s also passive. It’s ineffectual. You can’t travel back in time, and there’s nothing sadder than people who are incapable of coming to terms with that reality.
That’s why I was so thrilled when I started making my way through the NPR First Listen of Powers’ follow-up, Wondrous Bughouse. Whereas everything to date has felt like it was related to time, these songs, to me, are all about space.
They’re longer. They expand. They’re thick, like a surface that has a zillion coats of paint on it. Songs like “Mute” and “Dropla” call to my mind the image of a lush, green jungle that’s hazy and overflowing with life. It’s all very exciting (paint simile notwithstanding). And because this second album taps into a completely different set of emotions, it manages to break out of the usual progress/timeline-based comparisons that plague sophomore efforts. It really feels like we’re seeing a different dimension of Trevor Powers (sorry, I am the kind of person who would make that pun), and I’m looking forward to watching heaps of praise being deservedly thrown at Wondrous Bughouse.
Sample “Mute” and “Dropla” below (you can actually download “Dropla” over at Soundcloud) and join me in getting excited for March 5, the new album’s release date.