Two years after the release of The Year of Hibernation, Youth Lagoon has graced the musical underworld with the presence of Trevor Powers’ beautifully disturbing synth-pop tunes. Indubitably, Wondrous Bughouse is a little bit creepier— the anxiety is still there, but gone is the hopeless romantic who wants to hold your hand in the middle of the night.
Powers still operates in the bedroom at heart, but he has entered a new space that looms much darker. “Through Mind and Back” takes us to that place under the bed that we’ve always been terrified to explore. The eerie sound of the synthesizers rings from ear to ear, but transforms into a state of serenity. It’s the ideal set-up for the next track “Mute”, which is the most impressive tune on the album by far.
This time around, Powers added a full band, which gives songs like this and “Raspberry Cane” a fuller sound. The drums keep the listener grounded while the guitar and bass drift off into a psychedelic groove of their own. The melodies are simple, tastefully crafted to enchant the listener without doing too much to disorient them.
Listening to “Attic Door” feels like a never-ending ride on a carousel at a summer carnival. (Or better yet, a bad acid trip down the rabbit hole.) All of the elements—from Powers’ squeaky voice to his taunting accordion-esque keyboard–- are enough to make anyone question their surroundings, as well as their level of sanity. And who could forget “Pelican Man”, with incredible instrumentation that is so precise and a voice so monotonous that it almost hypnotizes us?
“Dropla” harps on the horror of watching someone die, an unavoidable reality despite the incessant repetition of Powers’ unrelenting plea, “You’ll never die.” It’s a modern-day nursery rhyme with a dark meaning behind it that’s frighteningly similar to the classic “Ring Around The Rosie.” The listener grows more and more curious as they disconnect from the world they once knew. “Daisyphobia” is the final stage in Powers’ grim fairytale, leaving listeners starry-eyed and longing for another adventure in dystopia.
Youth Lagoon decided to get experimental on his sophomore release, but Wondrous Bughouse works because Powers doesn’t get tangled in the web of noise. After a few listens, anyone will find comfort in the sharp pings and warped sense of time. Nostalgia isn’t child’s play, and with a more mature outlook on life comes a newly evolved sound.