If becoming a successful musician was one of Powers’ fantasies, then he should be proud of recording a debut as solid as ‘The Year of Hibernation’.
Youth Lagoon is the project of the youthful Trevor Powers. At just 22 years of age, Powers has established himself as one of the better bedroom artists in the indie world. Writing songs that feel like personal entries into his diary (or journal since he’s a guy), The Year of Hibernation comes across as very personal storytelling from an unhappy kid. Much of it could be chalked up to Powers suffering post-teen angst (we’ve all been there). When I was still in my early college years, I wrote constantly about my feelings, girls that I admired, pain, grief, all the normal stuff that awkward kids write about. If I had the means, I could have made some pretty awful bedroom chamber pop music. Thankfully, Powers’ confessional songwriting is actually interesting, and he possesses talent at song structure to create epic music beds to accompany his filtered vocals.
The use of vocal effects is nothing new for bedroom artists. Many of them aren’t gifted singers, but they have a good ear for what sounds good. Why shouldn’t they be able to write songs too even if they can’t sing? I don’t fault Powers for hiding his natural voice behind reverb, but this won’t appeal to every listener. Some will probably think it sounds horrible. As Powers progresses in the future and gains more confidence, his voice should become more refined and less reverb will be used. Still, even with the effects, Powers conveys the messages of his songs rather clearly, and they never distract from the music surrounding his pained stories.
Powers arrangements are spectacular for recording in such a solitary manner. The percussion building to the climax in “July” is powerful stuff. Powers isn’t just great at picking beats that sound good when combined together. His guitar melodies keep Youth Lagoon’s songs from merely consisting of computer program loops. The riffing that falls behind the drums in “July” packs an assertive, emotional punch. Other times Power’s guitar playing helps at building nostalgia around the songs. Much of Powers’ lyrics seem to be about past moments in his life. His softer, wounded singing (though fuzzily distorted) suggests an innocence crippled by rejection. On “17” he sings about how he used to imagine himself outside his room having adventures; though, his self-confessed anxiety no doubt kept him from actually living out his fantasies.
If becoming a successful musician was one of Powers’ fantasies, then he should be proud of recording a debut as solid as The Year of Hibernation. Bedroom recorded albums are becoming a new staple of indie music. Many, like arrange, I Break Horses, and now Youth Lagoon, have been good. However, I don’t think this is a genre that is always going to produce stellar results. Now that kids with rock star ambitions have recording software at their disposal, I expect many of these projects to flood Bandcamp, and the results aren’t always going to be good. Not everyone is cut out to be a musician, and Powers’ next album could be a failure. However, I cannot deny the emotional intensity behind the songs on The Year of Hibernation, and I hope that Powers improves upon his first success to give us many great albums in the future.