Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse

Ryan Reed

By Ryan Reed

on 03.05.13 in Reviews

If The Year of Hiberation, Trevor Powers’s debut album under the name Youth Lagoon, felt like riding a slow-moving, psychedelic county-fair carousel, then his sophomore effort, Wondrous Bughouse, is like being strapped into the spinning teacups at Disney World while on psychotropic drugs. This woozy, slightly out-of-focus aesthetic is a sharp U-turn, arriving after the pixie-dust electro-pop of Hibernation — it’s as if Powers grew disinterested in idyllic prettiness and purposely decided to uglify and intensify his trademark sound.

A fascinating follow-up with a slightly out-of-focus aesthetic

“Through Mind and Back” opens Bughouse with two minutes of discordant, fractured ambience, and the vibe only gets weirder from there: “Attic Doctor” is a trippy spookhouse waltz with dilapidated carnival synths, and “Pelican Man” channels the proggy mysticism of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Even the warmest, cuddliest tracks here (like the mortality-driven fairy tale “Dropla”) find curious ways to meander and wilt: Check “Sleep Paralysis,” with Powers just missing those high notes; or “Mute,” with its organs chiming in and out of tune; or “The Bath,” in which percussion loops abruptly shift in tempo — a detour from the track’s emotional crescendo. But these left-field nuances offer Powers’s music grit and dynamic range: Even at its strangest, Wondrous Bughouse is never less than fascinating.