On “Wondrous Bughouse,” the follow-up to the much-lauded 2011 debut “The Year of Hibernation,” Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers manages to pull off the difficult feat of discussing issues like mortality and psychological disorders while sacrificing none of the sugar-sweet pop histrionics on which he originally made his name.
Given that “bughouse” refers to an old euphemism for an insane asylum, the album’s title fits its content nicely. Starting with a cluttered introduction called “Through the Mind and Back,” “Wondrous Bughouse” really hits its stride with its second track, “Mute,” on which bright synthesizer melodies, fuzzy atmospherics, sampled sounds and an upbeat drum track vie for the listener’s attention. Powers uses this palette throughout the album to great effect, changing and modifying the instruments he works with in such a way that the album rarely sounds monotonous, instead moving with a smooth continuity.
The album’s production as a whole is marvelous. Ranging from spacey atmospheric ballads like “Daisyphobia” to sunny, college radio-friendly pop anthems like “Dropla” and “Attic Doctor,” the album seems equally influenced by the psychedelic innovations of late-period Beatles records and the lethargic stride of recent chillwave.
Though lyrics are fairly sparse throughout the album, Powers’ lyrical content tends to be fascinatingly cryptic. On album highlight “Sleep Paralysis,” he throws out metaphysical accusations such as “You have made a grave mistake/ and sleep paralysis is showing me what it really is.” A lot of the album’s lyrics revolve around the ways in which mental patients perceive reality and mortality. This recently acquired lyrical frankness, combined with the album’s shimmering production and innovative arrangements, proves that Youth Lagoon is completely deserving of the big-name status he’s recently garnered. (8/10)