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New Music: Youth Lagoon

By Jarrett Edmund, September 29 2015 —

Idaho native and lo-fi bedroom-pop artist Trevor Powers is no stranger to self-reflection. His debut album, The Year of Hibernation, dealt with themes of childhood nostalgia, while his sophomore effort, Wondrous Bughouse, was a Willy Wonka-inspired acid trip. Though notably different in sound, the two albums are linked together by Powers’ emotion as he sang openly about his insecurities and his fear of death.

His latest album, Savage Hills Ballroom, is also an emotional record, but Powers has abandoned his lo-fi tendencies. Gone are the filters that shielded his trembling vocals. The vulnerability still remains, but Powers no longer seems reluctant to embrace the spotlight. ENT_YouthLagoon_web

Despite this confidence, Savage Hills Ballroom is rife with grief, anger and bitter cultural criticism. Album opener “Officer Telephone” is a glitchy and visceral effort capped with an explosive finale more akin to Nine Inch Nails than Youth Lagoon. “Highway Patrol Stun Gun” follows as a shimmering ‘80s-inspired anthem and stands alone amidst an album of muddled social commentary and comparatively tame musical arrangements.

From the holier-than-thou “The Knower” to the self-loathing “Rotten Human,” Powers points fingers in all directions, including at himself. The only reprieve comes on “Doll House,” a dreamy instrumental that provides some much needed breathing space.

At times, Savage Hills Ballroom sounds like a break-up album. “You were the drug that I couldn’t shake, You were the habit that I couldn’t break,” Powers croons on “Rotten Human.” But the habit he sings about isn’t a significant other. On the album, Powers breaks up with his former sound.

Savage Hills Ballroom is a monster, as beautiful as it is ugly, and it’s hard to imagine what sort of musician Powers will become after this transformation.

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