In 2011, Trevor Powers, a.k.a. Youth Lagoon, crafted The Year of Hibernation , a debut album that was so perfectly atmospheric that to take away a single element would have sent the entire project crumbling. Powers' methodical approach to layering sound after sound was enhanced by the fact that even outside the scope of a singular song, the entire album seemed to be the collective work of a singular, but strong idea. It was one of the rare times I wish I didn't have to flip an album from the A Side to the B Side, because I could get lost in The Year of Hibernation and never know when one track begin or ended.
While I loved The Year of Hibernation, my hopes of a strong follow up from Powers were met with skepticism. His debut album seemed to be one of those magical collisions of passion and hard work. Then came "Dropla," the first single from his follow-up LP Wondrous Bughouse. With almost no way to improve upon the exploration of mood and atmosphere found on The Year of Hibernation, where does he go? Does he repeat the same sound all over again? Either way, Powers was backed into a corner that I never thought he would be able to emerge from without falling into one pitfall or another.
What Powers did is emerge as a songwriter. Unlike The Year of Hibernation, Powers himself is the star of "Dropla." His vocals are boosted and he controls his mood with a swinging and honest quivering that finally allows the listener to connect with the man behind Youth Lagoon and not just the emotional landscapes he creates. "Dropla" has everything that I loved about The Year of Hibernation. It has the same deep, visceral melodies rich with character. But in addition, Powers manages to elevate himself as an artist by not simply letting himself be one piece of the song; rather, he drives the whole thing.
This was extremely risky considering the success of Youth Lagoon's debut record, but when an artist fully commits to making a choice about their craft, the result can take their work to the next level. Such is the case with "Dropla." It's a bold move that deserves praise. Any apprehension I've had about a Youth Lagoon follow-up has melted away, only to be immediately replaced with a strong excitement for Wondrous Bughouse.
LABEL: Fat Possum
RELEASE DATE: March 5th, 2013
1. THROUGH MIND AND BACK
3. ATTIC DOCTOR
4. THE BATH
5. PELICAN MAN
7. SLEEP PARALYSIS
8. THIRD DYSTOPIA
9. RASPBERRY CANE
2/25: A Club, Spokane, WA
2/26: Badlander, Missoula, MT
2/27: Filling Station, Bozeman, MT
2/28: Kilby Court, Salt Lake City, UT
3/01: Larimer Lounge Denver, CO
6/05: Barclays Center Brooklyn, NY *
* = w/ The National