Contemplating the self with Youth Lagoon

Poster child
By REYAN ALI  |  March 27, 2012

YouthLagoon
GEM CLUB The solemn bedroom pop of Trevor Powers's Youth Lagoon was our unanimous Idaho selection in last year's 50 Bands 50 States feature.

Most of the posters that adorned Trevor Powers's wall when he was a kid were sports related. He particularly remembers the baseball posters. Despite growing up in Idaho, his team of choice has always been the Boston Red Sox, and he was a big Nomar Garciaparra fan. Knowing what kind of wall hangings a musician had as a child doesn't always offer clues about his adult personality, but in the case of the Boise-situated creator of hazy pop project Youth Lagoon, Powers's posters provide handy visuals when listening to his song called— wait for it — "Posters."

The first track off The Year of Hibernation, Youth Lagoon's 2011 Fat Possum-issued debut album, introduces the band nicely. The track houses an understated, misty-eyed, synthesizer-driven melody, a soft coating of reverb, and Powers singing in an imperfect, tender tone that evokes both a boy stepping up to the mic for the first time and a brittle old man returning to it for the last. "When I was only nine years old/I had a poster," Powers begins, "and with that alone, I had the education/the motivation/I knew what I wanted to be."

Powers spends the song solemnly wading in a reflecting pool, and eventually comes to find that those old posters represent long-standing insecurities. "Usually, when someone has posters in their room and they try to remodel, the posters are the things that just end up staying on your wall through years and years," Powers says by phone from a New Orleans tour stop. "You just get so used to looking at 'em that you don't even really think about taking 'em down, because you barely even notice them anymore. It's just a part of your wall, so [the song is] relating that with things in your life that constantly are haunting you or have affected your life."

It's a delicate, pensive sentiment from someone who has joined a group of musicians who write in delicate, pensive ways. Powers is another bedroom musician — another cadet in an increasingly vast army of young, unseasoned songwriters who have gained the attention of the indie-music world early through luck, timing, connections, and varying degrees of talent. Powers— an early 20-something who dropped out of Boise State and quit his Urban Outfitters job to pursue music full time— makes work that feels wounded, raw, reticent, and honest. Powers told blogger Aisu Kurimu that The Year of Hibernation thematically deals with "my battle with anxiety that I've had since I was a kid," and he tried to channel the "weird, frightening, bizarre things [that] enter my mind on a daily basis" into music.

A deep sense of loneliness fills Hibernation. Powers calls it "kind of a solitary record," noting that it was more about mental isolation versus physical isolation. This isn't to say that Powers is entirely doom and gloom (he has an amiable phone presence, tends to speak in optimistic terms, and doesn't think of himself as a lonely person). He just appears to have more to say about darker matters.

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