Trevor Powers cuts a curious figure across the stage. His voice is deceptive—Powers’ default position is at a high nasal whimper, befitting his curiously baby-cheeked appearance and wounded songwriting. Then he lets out occasional bellowing lines, nailing high notes and underlining the vocal strength that anchors Youth Lagoon. The music’s power is just as hidden—Youth Lagoon songs start off small and winsome, with bell-toned keys and electric piano twinkling in the hush. Then Powers cranks up his vocals, the nearby guitarist starts playing, and the canned drum track booms along. The songs become something far greater than teensy bedroom pop, awash in reverb and “dynamics” as a substitute for songcraft.
In fact, while Youth Lagoon’s debut The Year Of Hibernation used a liberal amount of reverb, Powers wisely chose to keep his vocals relatively clean Monday night. This courageous choice was successful, as it allowed the audience to get a taste of what Powers really sounds like. Despite a sore throat, Powers was able to grab onto nearly every “loud” part in his songs (with the exception of the high note at the climax of “July,” but the strangled quality of that note accentuated the song’s catharsis in a beautifully organic way that a perfunctory and technical performance could not have done).
Onstage, Powers was giddy and talkative, like a dorky kid who got to the cool table and realized they were just as weird as he was. He told stories about his sore throat, gently mocked the audience (when he mentioned his girlfriend, there were audible sighs of disappointment), and—most curiously—declared a “drink break” instead of just coolly sipping water. It was all the sign that the Boise native (Powers has an outline of Idaho tattooed on his arm) is still a greenhorn, still not quite used to a sold-out New York audience. But it made it all the more winning when he got them all listening.