Trevor Power's charming debut under the name Youth Lagoon is a personal favorite; one of the few albums released last year that made both an immediate impression and never wore thin from repeated plays. Titled The Year of Hibernation, a plunge into Powers' breed of spacey, bedroom pop is a fresh and invigorating experience. To warm swirls of synth, precise fret-work, and peppy homemade beats, Powers observes the teenage/twenty-something world around him. Hibernation offers songs about growing up and getting to know ones' self. By virtue, that makes this album a haven of sorts, a timeless, secret world Powers was kind enough to kick the doors off of for others to discover. Youth Lagoon...there may not be a more fitting musical moniker out there at the moment.
Last week Powers offered a more detailed glimpse of his music, bringing Youth Lagoon through NYC for a pair of sold out shows at both The Bowery Ballroom and The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Like on record, Powers' lead with "Posters" as his entry point in concert. The song is an anthem for/by the insular teen; the kind of quiet, polite kid who would rather hideaway somewhere safe, create something compelling, and gaze out at the outside world via a few, select heroes. Singing, "I had a poster and with that alone I had the education, the motivation / I knew what I wanted to be", Powers makes his case for pairing a wild imagination with a little personal ambition. If I were to guess, its nights like the one that followed that are exactly what the lanky, slightly unkempt Idahoan had in mind when he dreamt of the possibilities for his music. For all I know, that poster he's referring to might have been a photograph of the Manhattan skyline. It's apparently his favorite city, after all...unless of course he says that kind of thing from the stage every night.
I don't think so, though. Powers seems too sincere, too down to earth, too wonderstruck by the throngs of people who came to see him. In between songs Powers made nervous chit chat about tacos, Ambien (I think?), and a few other topics. He told us we were the best, and we blushed, trying to believe it, but suspecting it was probably the other way around. Powers' charm apparently finds as much a home on stage as it does on his record.
It also helped that Powers didn't choose to overdo it at this juncture of his career. Many young artists treat New York like some momentous, crowning achievement, hiring professionals to help back-up the sound, often at the expense of the raw, unpolished energy that can makes seeing new acts exciting to begin with. On stage, he hovered over keyboards, perched on baja rugs, played with some beat making apparatuses, and a few additional knobs and pedals. Thats it. A lone guitarist (Logan Hyde) joined him for most of the set, adding bits of warmth and texture to the songs, but nothing else distracted from Powers.
The results of which was an honest live reproduction of some of Hibernation's best songs..."Cannons", "17", "July" and "Montana". In the future, it's easy to imagine these songs planted on more substantial and exotic instrumental footing. But for now Youth Lagoon looks, feels, and sounds like a solo project, one that's just starting to realize its true potential.
If writing and recording Youth Lagoon was an exercise in Hibernation, then everything that's followed in its wake feels like Powers' acclimation to a public that's eager to see/hear more of his world.