Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon is 22. Many reviews have led with this fact since it’s really amazing when someone so young can exhibit such mastery. Powers can conjure rhythms, harmonies, melodies and weave them into an incredibly dense arrangement. And he’s also dealing with some mature themes on The Year Of Hibernation, out now on Fat Possum. The album’s concept is centered on anxiety, which Powers says he’s grappled with for most of his life.
The drafting of keys and guitar licks over drum machine beats is the surface of Hibernation. A level deeper is Powers’ tenor wail, which is often swallowed up in its surroundings, making it hard to tell what he’s singing. But that may just be the point; Powers’ voice, washed under waves of sound, is like a drowning man struggling to stay above water. His voice is also filtered through what sounds like an electric echo-chamber, giving us the sense that he’s hurling his words from some distant time or place. What words we can pluck from the ether form images of loneliness, isolation and innocence lost, childhood monsters replaced with adolescent ones equally antagonizing.
Hibernation is at the height of its power in songs like “Montana” and “July,” which build into explosive crescendos. “Montana” grows slowly on a marching piano chord, a tambourine and a synth riff; however, once in full step, the result is incredible. Interspersed with a few hand-claps, the final minute of the song grabs you and refuses to let go. The best moments of Hibernation are like this. With only eight tracks and a run-time just over half an hour, this debut is a light one but hits like a featherweight champ.