Youth Lagoon's sophomore album, Wondrous Bughouse
, might the best psychedelic record you'll hear this year. Somewhere between Love and Grizzly Bear, it plays like the soundtrack to a really good acid trip at the local carnival, underscored by heartfelt pleas for connection in an alienated mindscape.
Trevor Powers manages to stretch his gentle but insistent melodies and relentlessly distorted instrumentation across 10 songs, weaving it like a mood he invites you to experience, rather than individual songs that are trying to grab your attention. The truth is, individually, they don't sound all that unique from everything else going on in the music world right now, but the layering, transitioning, and experimenting that goes on over the course of 50 minutes is mind-blowing, and would be impressive even for a four-person band. "Attic Doctor" sounds like "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" was sung underwater by the cast of Adventure Time
, and "Pelican Man" - the album's masterpiece - sounds like a lost track from Quadrophenia
that got blasted into space and made its way back through several comet storms.
After the mind-bending merry-go-round of opening tracks, "Sleep Paralysis" kicks off the murky major key of the album's second half, sounding like Clinic's take on Radiohead's "No Surprises." The plodding rhythm and Abbey Road
chord turnarounds on "Raspberry Cane" paint a surreal lethargy that threatens to descend into the stuff of nightmares, but never actually makes it. It's this tension that keeps Wondrous Bughouse
from ever sounding boring. The thematic piano arpeggios and submerged carnival sounds return on closer "Daisyphobia" as Powers' voice wavers from a galaxy far, far away. The woozy claustrophobia is never resolved - in fact, it comes back at full force, leaving us lost on the Ferris wheel, somewhere between waking and dreaming. Or, in my case, replaying the album again and again.
is out March 5th via Fat Possom. Pre-order it here