Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse
In a conversation with blogger Aisu Kurimu before The Year of Hibernation hit in late 2011, Trevor Powers portrayed Youth Lagoon’s debut as an outlet for his lifelong anxieties. “I have all kinds of weird, frightening, bizarre things enter my mind on a daily basis,” the Boise, Idaho, resident and Youth Lagoon administrator said, “and some of the songs on the album came from me sitting down at a piano when I had all this stuff in my mind and trying to play those feelings.”
Driven by Powers’ distinctively arranged palette—stark and forlorn piano-buoyed indie-pop threads, lyrics of longing and loneliness, sheepish vocals filtered through reverb—The Year of Hibernation made good on that pre-release commentary. Wondrous Bughouse, Youth Lagoon’s second record, continues its predecessor’s narrative, following a trail up a mountain through thick sonic forestry. Bughouse is bewitching, compelling and immensely endearing. Its roster of surreal song titles (“Raspberry Cane,” “Pelican Man,” “Daisyphobia”) goes handsomely with its fine fuzz-to-clean-to-fuzz crescendos, unpredictable but satisfying tonal shifts and fidgety background touches (scratches, hisses, screams, etc.). Youth Lagoon’s crux is still The Year’s bedroom-born, chillwave-reminiscent gloom, but shades of twisted psychedelics and friendly folk are braided through it, too. Powers’ voice is still trapped in a half-intelligible fog, his presence still strangely warm. If Tim Burton ever returns to his roots to concoct a film that’s eccentric, peculiar, uplifting, heartsick and lovable all at once, its soundtrack is waiting. March 5, Fat Possum Records (Reyan Ali)
The Cave Singers, Naomi
It makes sense that a band from the misty, ethereal Pacific Northwest would name an album not after a corporeal person, but after a fictional muse. On Naomi, the fourth full-length album by Seattle-based mystics The Cave Singers, the indie-folk foursome explore the magic of everyday life, as well as the beauty of human imperfection. The original lineup of Pete Quirk (vocals), Derek Fudesco (guitar) and Marty Lund (drums) recruited longtime friend Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers, Fleet Foxes) on bass and extra instrumental touches, and the result is a hopeful tonic for the soul. Produced by Phil Ek (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes), Naomi is full of driving percussion, kaleidoscopic guitar work and vocals that are simultaneously biting and otherworldly.
Standout tracks include the mellow “No Tomorrows,” where the bravery of deciding to move on after a loss is captured in the lyrics, “I’ve got no sorrow/ don’t need to follow.” “It’s a Crime” flirts with surf-rock territory, with an impossibly catchy beat and dance-inducing spell. “When the World,” the album’s conclusion, is a jangly, upbeat, tambourine-driven tribute to forgiving yourself. The sunshine-y chorus, speckled with hand-claps, is one of the most beautiful moments of the album, with the lyrics, “When the world it tumbles and falls/ reach out your hand/ a solitary man/ there’s room to grow.” March 5, Jagjaguwar (Kolbie Stonehocker)