The Awakening of Youth Lagoon

09/28/2011 4:00 AM |

Youth Lagoon
The Year of Hibernation

(Fat Possum)

The Year of Hibernation is a quiet killer. It’s 22-year-old creator, a former Boise State undergrad named Trevor Powers, meant for it to be a method of purging his less-than-happy memories and extreme anxiety—”I sometimes feel like I’m literally being eaten up inside,”a press release quotes—but with every slow climb and searing surge, it rips a heartstring out of your chest too.

Powers is operating within a neurotic, distressed head space and armed with a talent for piecing words into intimate narratives. If you swapped out Omaha for Boise and the year 2000 with 2011, you could argue his Youth Lagoon alias has the markings of Bright Eyes for the Laptop-Pop Generation: those used to an era where a kid holed up in a dorm room can post a song on his Bandcamp page in May, incite widespread applause among critics within the week, and ink a record deal by July. Or an era where clean guitar lines and drum kits are ditched in favor of distorted synths, torched organs and looping devices that converge at a point between Mount Eerie’s discreetly melodic nether regions and Cocteau Twin’s reverbed dream state.

Power’s vocals are consistently obscured, thanks to a thick blanket of fuzz layered on top: that’s how they sound in his head, he told John Norris in an interview. Throughout the bulk of the album, even on the illuminating, mountain-reaching swells of “Montana”and “July,”the volume and clarity of his voice stays put—the sound of being small in an infinitely big world. But even with only being able to decipher every other word, there’s a sense he’s neither surrendering nor wallowing. In fact, there was a last-minute change to the album art when he opted to make a rainbow-plastered photo from a family vacation to Hawaii the record cover. It was a trip that signaled reconnecting with an ex-girlfriend and brighter days ahead. Power’s so-called year of hibernation may be over, but Youth Lagoon’s career has just begun.