By Erika Harwood, For the Daily
Published March 12, 2013
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Nothing conjures up panic and nausea in artists and listeners alike quite like the release of a sophomore album. Going into his second effort, Trevor Powers, better known to the world as Youth Lagoon, had reason to fear the dreaded sophomore slump: His debut album, The Year of Hibernation, was received favorably. And when it came to making its follow-up, Wondrous Bughouse, Powers experimented and took chances. As the artist who could easily be coined as the bastard child of MGMT and The Flaming Lips, Youth Lagoon’s second full-length product creates a modern psychedelic journey and clearly shows that Powers has no idea what a sophomore slump is.
Each dazzling layer builds on top another to create the album’s second song “Mute,” one of the, if not the single most, standout tracks of Wondrous Bughouse. Every additional sound, from the guitar, to the synths, to Powers’s nasally vocals, works effortlessly by producing a sound that perfectly fills up the track’s six minutes. While the song seems to shift focus at certain points, it reaches fresh and brighter sounds that grip the listener’s attention.
Each song on the album, with the exception of “Through Mind and Back” — the record’s disorienting intro — clocks in anywhere from four to almost seven minutes. Powers clearly took his time to compose each track, crafting the lyrics and meticulously creating each neo-Psychedelic layer of sound. Tracks like “Raspberry Cane” and “Daisyphobia” gradually progress with each additional sound of instrumentation but guarantee a gratifying journey for the listener with each enchanting twist and turn that they take.
Powers mumbles his way through the sing-songy “Dropla” before getting to the line “you will never die,” which he goes on to repeat countlessly throughout the rest of the song (related note: Word on the street is that everyone dies. Let’s not get carried away here). Even though this seems like it could be a potential decline in the album, Powers’s vocals yearn for the sympathy of the listener — and like the Bible kind of says: Yearn, and thou shall receive. As he wails “you weren’t there / when I needed it,” empathetic hearts break audibly around the world.
The surprisingly heavy lyricism is a theme throughout Wondrous Bughouse, and yet Powers skillfully juxtaposes this with the album’s warm and bright sound. Youth Lagoon’s departure from the at-home DIY sound of The Year of Hibernation exposes Powers’s raw musical talent and progression into authentic artistry. Let Wondrous Bughouse join the ranks as another sophomore album gone right.