Wondrous Bughouse, the follow-up to 2011’s excellent The Year of Hibernation, is out this week from Youth Lagoon, the dream-pop project of Boise's Trevor Powers. Wondrous Bughouse finds Powers expanding his sound and broadening the scope of his lyrical content. While The Year of Hibernation was an intimate headphone album about solitude, loss, and youth, Wondrous Bughouse is a different animal entirely.
But change isn’t necessarily bad. Once you adjust to the more expansive feel and expensive-sounding production on Wondrous Bughouse, the album is charming in its own right. Powers has clearly grown as an artist since The Year of Hibernation, and that growth manifests itself with more melodic turns, more varied and dynamic songwriting, and a shift in tone: Powers has gotten outside of his own head.
The clear standouts on Wondrous Bughouse are early singles “Dropla” and “Mute,” along with the penultimate track, “Raspberry Cane.” The album relies pretty extensively on distorted, blown-out, reverberant musical phrases that lend a lush, atmospheric feel to tracks that evokes a sense of space more than The Year of Hibernation ever did. This revised approach is, at times, breathtaking. The gloriously fuzzy, jangly “Raspberry Cane” is a strong contender (up against “Montana”) for Powers’ best work yet.
As always, there is an emotionally saturated and sweetly wistful edge to Powers’ songwriting. He has a knack for songs that are, if not terribly complex, deeply resonant on a very basic level. On Wondrous Bughouse, Powers takes more cues from artists like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and mid-career Beatles than before, and the result is an album that reads as vividly dreamlike. Ultimately, Wondrous Bughouse is an extraordinarily impressive sophomore album that is bound to win over even more Youth Lagoon fans.