IN APPRECIATION OF ’11: Youth Lagoon

Youth Lagoon really came out of the blue for me. I had no knowledge of his existence prior to the release of his album, The Year of Hibernation, but from the first time I gave it a spin, I realised what I had been missing out on. Youth Lagoon, the moniker of 22 year-old Trevor Powers recorded the record independently in his bedroom, in a style similar to 2010’s Learning by Perfume Genius, and that’s reflected on the album. The title of the album is quite apt given the cold, isolated feeling of the album, but after sufficient time has been spent with the album, it opens up on another level and shows the passion and emotion that he really puts into his work.

Although the music that Youth Lagoon produces shouldn’t be that revolutionary on paper, there’s just something about the music that grabs you straight away. You won’t be able to just listen to one track, there’s something addictive about the way he makes music. When I saw Los Campesinos! in Brighton earlier this month, Cannons, a track from Youth Lagoon‘s debut, played before the band came on and it instantly made my friends I was with love his music. The melodies he produces are some of the most hypnotic, moving melodies I’ve heard all year, and it’s part of what makes me find myself listening to the album almost on a daily basis.

The vocals are shrouded in a thick haze but that doesn’t stop Powers from having a haunting quality to his voice, the songs usually share a familiar pattern of starting with his vocals being timid whisperings that echo through the keyboard and synths, before growing stronger and stronger and finishing with such passion; it really is an amazing experience. You can hear in his voice that he really means what he’s singing.

At first, the lyrics take a back seat because of the distorted way they’re delivered, but after a while, once you really listen to what he’s saying, the true genius of Youth Lagoon is put on display. He takes real life experiences and embeds them perfectly into the songs. There’s a distinct feeling of nostalgia that emanates throughout the record and makes it such a captivating listen. In highlight of the album, 17, he repeats “when I was seventeen / my mother said to me / don’t stop imagining / the day that you do is the day that you’ll die” in a way that really moves you.

Most of the tracks on the album all employ the same clever technique of starting off with a minimalist composition before building up, piece-by-piece until they form a kind of hypnotising motion that really carries the work forward, akin to that of The xxJuly is a perfect example of this, it starts with a gentle hum from a synthesiser, before Powers‘ vocals are introduced. He then adds keyboards to the mix, his voice then grows stronger and stronger until he lets his emotions show on the track. It has a finish that combines every element of the track in such a dynamic way; it feels almost triumphant. Not all of the songs are written in this way, with Daydream being the biggest anomaly on the album. Straight away, we’re submerged in a pulsing synth beat which gives the track a decidedly more upbeat atmosphere than the rest of the album.

The fact that Powers is able to translate the recorded material into a live setting so successfully really says something about the artist. His Tunnelvision session for Pitchfork showcased what makes him great. This particular live recording of July arguably sounded better than the recorded version.

As you can probably tell, The Year of Hibernation is a pretty special record in my eyes, and that’s why it’s one of my favourites of 2011. The future’s bright for Youth Lagoon, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

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