Shoegaze, ambient pop, lo-fi, glitch hop, bedroom music — it’s just about everywhere these days. That’s because most of it is now homemade, crafted sans costly producers and recording studios. So the problem is that there’s now a lot of just plain bad music out there. But lest this super-genre develop a wholly lousy reputation, breakout artist Youth Lagoon recently released a gem of a debut LP: The Year of Hibernation.
The Year of Hibernation
Youth Lagoon, also known as 22-year-old Trevor Powers from Boise, Idaho, is relatively new on the music scene. It wasn’t until mid-2011, when one of his tracks, “Cannons,” hit the Internet, that the blogosphere even began dropping his then-label-less name. A few months and two record companies later, he has released his now-highly anticipated debut. Meanwhile, he’s still studying at Boise University — how’s that for an A student?
With a collection of songs that feels unbelievably private, the title isn’t hard to believe. It’s easy to imagine Powers having done just that — hibernated in complete solitude for a year in order to achieve the LP’s achingly lonesome vibe. Auto-schemed albums are becoming increasingly en vogue — proof is in the wild sensationalism of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The difference with The Year of Hibernation is that Youth Lagoon manages to construct a fully desolate sound without hinting at blatant depression. It’s impossibly inconsolable yet laced with a sunny groove.
Powers’s immensely promising musicianship is instantly recognizable. He has an obvious sense of the undervalued quality of each song’s arc, and then more vastly, the shape of the entire album. The songs are full of multilayered, echoing instruments, but it never feels cramped — a fine art in the bedroom music genre.
The album isn’t too dense. At just eight tracks, it is well edited but holds enough power to set Powers off on the right musical foot. It opens with “Posters,” a brightly-tinted ballad that develops a soothing guitar loop — a great way to start. Next is the aforementioned “Cannons,” an admirable track that sparkles with echoing vocals.
One particularly noteworthy song, “Daydream,” opens with pulsing synthesizers and Powers’s familiarly airy voice. It boasts a bridge so spectacular that it seems to be the very pinnacle which encompasses the entire album’s brilliant edge: understated poignancy.
The track “17” is the grooviest of the bunch, which is surprising since it opens with a gloomy vocal line. It takes its time to flawlessly unfold into a funky blend of guitar, percussion and electronics. The album closes with “The Hunt,” a chime-kissed track that that offers a bout of guitar-ridden anxiety before bursting into a rhythmic wash that actually sounds hopeful (Say it ain’t so!).
It’s rare for a debut record to be this put together. Powers has already created a signature sound, but it’s specific and admittedly not for everyone. In order to fully appreciate the album, it’s better to be familiar with the reverb-drenched style that Youth Lagoon does so well.