The legend of Trevor Powers, the 22-year-old bedroom musician who goes by the name Youth Lagoon and has been snapped up by the Fat Possum label, is of a kind of younger, more suburban Bon Iver.
Live Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Powers’ album The Year of Hibernation emerged after a period where he was holed up feeling increasingly insular.
But the effectiveness of the comparison ends there really. While Vernon spent three months in a shack in the wilderness nursing a failed romance and music career, it turns out that Powers was just a bit too busy to go out from his home in Boise Idaho. He had a lot of college work on apparently.
Also while Vernon’s loss was painfully laid bare on his stunning debut For Emma For Ever Ago, for Powers his only real loss was that his girlfriend was working a lot so he didn’t see her much.
He tells San Diego City Beat,
“I was really busy with school. My girlfriend was working 60 hours a week, so I was not seeing her very much. Everyone was busy with school and had a lot going on. While I was really busy, my anxiety was getting really bad. And I had this project of recording these songs when I would come home from school. In a way, I would isolate myself and just work on songs. It was kind of a weird, lonely year.”
As a result the influences behind Year of Hibernation are far too shallow to really hold a torch to For Emma.
But if you think this review is going to be negative because Powers is a young man and hasn’t really experienced a lot then think again.
He may lack the depth of Vernon and his songs may be a little immature lyrically but he has still come up with a remarkable album. If anything his immaturity is part of his appeal. It gives the subject matter a simplicity that anyone can relate to, even if it is from the mouth of a relative babe.
Take the track 17 with its warm electric keyboard intro and repeated lyrics, “when I was 17, my mother said to me, don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die.” A simple, sentimental message that is effectively delivered.
Another is Montana and its video about a young lad waving goodbye to his father who is off to fight in Vietnam and never to return. Fast forward 20 odd years and the boy is a man wandering the countryside of Montana with his father’s ghost watching over him all the time. It’s like a terrible US Tv movie, but because its Powers and because sentimentality is what he does it sort of works.
Further praise goes to Power’s lo-fi production. Simple keyboards and electric guitar, mixed with computer drum tracks and his androgynous, vulnerable vocals. It’s like Postal Service through an echo chamber at times, like Beach House at others.
The electric guitar riff on Daydream is particularly effective, as is the whistling effect on Afternoon and Montana, which nicely conjures up an image of an army of bedroom indie kid musicians marching towards a gig triumphant.
So if sentimentality is not your thing, then maybe this is one to avoid, but if you like the mystique, of his admittedly slight, surburban legend as well as bands such as Beach House then this is going to appeal.
by Joe Lepper