Sometimes you’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. Trevor Powers, otherwise known as Youth Lagoon, has done just that.
Powers – a 23-year-old native of Boise, Idaho – suffers from serious anxiety; an inability to turn his mind off, particularly the more disturbing thoughts that may plague us occasionally – he grappled for a year with the fear that he could potentially kill someone. While this condition may cripple some, Powers has not let it drive him to insanity, instead treating song-writing as a cathartic process.
“That’s how I know how to interpret the world, you know?” says Powers. “For me, there’s nothing like sitting down and writing a song as far as figuring something out.”
The result: 2011’s prodigious debut record The Year of Hibernation.
An incredible first effort, the record was featured in Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of 2011 (at the criminally low position of number 50, but to make the list at all is no easy feat), and has seen Powers embark on several tours in support.
It may have been written in his bedroom and produced in the home studio of friend Jeremy Park, but unlike the more introverted records of this ilk TYOH aches to fill the most cavernous of concert theatres. Each song builds from a sparse twinkle to a joyous shout-along layered by synth, guitar and a beat your feet find impossible to ignore. Interestingly, this is not necessarily what Powers intended while writing.
“It’s not like the whole record in general is about anxiety, but it definitely comes from that state of mind… still, there is that hopeful vibe that I think is the main thing a lot of people pick up on.”
The hopeful vibe is quite hard to ignore. Beginning with a jauntily whistled melody, ‘Afternoon’ sees upbeat piano and guitar riffs trade dominance, never once losing speed or dance-ability.‘Montana’ morphs from a quiet, emotive and at times aquatic-sounding piano ballad into a pounding, swelling surge of guitars, synths, beats and “ah-aaahs” that scream optimism.
Though begging to be played loudly, the record boasts a consciously lo-fi production, something Powers and Park butted heads on; Park is used to recording quite polished, clean records.
“When I was working on these ideas and hearing them in my head they didn’t sound clear so I didn’t want to portray them that way,” says Powers. “I think the way that you dress a song is just as important as the song itself. If you dress it in an outfit it’s not supposed to be in then it doesn’t really work.”