Review of Wondrous Bughouse Album by Youth Lagoon

Trevor Powers' debut under the Youth Lagoon moniker was an encapsulation of his own move from the coast of San Diego to the arid, primarily rural state of Idaho; wispy pop transplanted into a stark landscape. Two years on, Wondrous Bughouse is an exploration of new territories that also feels like a retreat.

Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse Album

It contains neither the sparseness nor the more anthemic moments of its predecessor, instead feeling like much more of a cohesive piece, flowing like waves lapping. This isn't a wholly positive thing, however, and for much of the album not only is the palette composed of the same shades but the pattern of each song are very similar, and it becomes easy to predict exactly which direction Powers' will take.

The overall vibe of Wondrous Bughouse shifts from the Bon Iver-meets-Galaxie 500 lo-fi introspection of his debut Year Of Hibernation into a sunnier, more expansive and more expensive sound. It bears a strong resemblance to Dr Dog's "Fate" and The Ruby Suns' "Sea Lion", and in the context of these releases Wondrous Bughouse does sound dated, but here the edges of the pop blueprint are filed down and hooks are obscured than its closest points of comparison. 

Its more restrained moments are the highlights, one thing it shares in common with Year Of Hibernation, such as 'The Bath' with its chiming synths and buried-in-reverb percussion that are reminiscent of The Antlers' recent Drift Dive EP, perhaps because they are the ones least affected by the jump from lo-fi by necessity to over-production, but there are few low points if you look at Wondrous Bughouse track by track. The problem is that it is an album that is fully intended and sculpted to be listened to as a single piece but is also too reliant on the same tricks and techniques to encourage listens in this manner.

Jordan Dowling

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