Review Summary: Bedroom pop for clowns.
I didn’t really like Trevor Powers’ (I refuse to call him Youth Lagoon in this review; that is a dumb name) first album. The Year of Hibernation
was a timid affair that never really busted out of its hazy intimacy and became something genuinely decent for me-- a bunch of slow, simple cuts that I would probably thumbs-up if a buddy of mine showed them to me. On that note, I don’t think I’d really like Trevor Powers that much if I ever met him in real life. First off, he lives in Idaho. Second off, he described his follow-up Wondrous Bughouse
as spawning from "becoming more fascinated with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world." So yeah, we would probably not get along very well.
But you listen to Wondrous Bughouse
and realize that there’s definitely some sort of truth behind that statement. Bughouse
is certainly more psychedelic then its predecessor in both music and lyrics; first and foremost the melodies jump off the page much more here than they did on Hibernation
. There’s some digging to do here to find the goods, but not nearly as much. His lyrical themes have moved far from posters and bedrooms and all of a sudden he’s taking some big hacks at life and the human experience. Powers, in a sense, is crawling out of his shell.
It certainly makes for an entertaining listen, but there’s the feeling that Powers merely shifted gears from shoegazey, dream-pop worship to a handful of Animal Collective records and that’s really as “transcendental” as his change in sound really gets. There’s undoubtedly a bunch of Animal Collective-lite vibes on Wondrous Bughouse
, but to Powers’ credit he hasn’t lost all of the intimacy from his first record, and what carries over to Bughouse
works. The looping, circus melodies-- and by God, there are quite a few-- are not robotic, and that alone is unique.
It’s a move I wouldn’t have expected from Powers, one that I would figure to alienate a good handful of fans of Hibernation
. But just like his debut, there’s plenty of substance to found on Bughouse
once you dig through the muck, noise-- and yes, a solid amount of filler. It kind of makes sense, though-- The Year of Hibernation
was assumedly a pretty emotional album for Powers, and it’s good to see him, in perfect Frightened Rabbit or Antlers style, move toward a more melodic, less draining style of music. It’s good for the artist, it’s sure to win over some new fans, and it puts him at an interesting sort of crossroads in terms of his expansion into a fully mature musical act. He’s not quite there yet.