The Year of Hibernation
Oct 14, 2011 Web Exclusive
Bedroom pop benefits most from the portability and quality possible from modern technology. Its intimacy is also made for the close listening of headphones; there’s a real connection possible that other genres are either not capable of or have no interest in. Straining to make out the lyrics of Trevor Powers on his full-length Youth Lagoon debut ties the listener closely to Powers and his yearning vocals while revealing The Year of Hibernation’s many, many pleasures.
Powers buries himself deep in the mix, often employing the kind of reverb that My Morning Jacket popularized a decade ago. Vocally, Powers sounds less like Jim James than a mildly stronger version of Daniel Johnston, still fragile but capable of a clearer tone. (Powers also occasionally employs an overstuffed phrasing similar to that of Johnston, a rush of words that seems to fall over the edges of the line.) Putting the vocals at such a distance ends up being the right move, because they’re not the show here. Instead, Powers’s astounding ability to create gorgeous, layered melodies makes The Year of Hibernation one of the best records of the year.
Often, such intimate records feel small, but The Year of Hibernation does not. There’s an expansiveness behind the music box opening of “Afternoon,” where Powers reinforces the melody with whistles and keys and then retraces the notes with the lyrics that become the album’s hallmark. The strongest statement comes from the surprisingly aggressive guitars that lend The Year of Hibernation a backbone. While no one would call this a guitar-driven record—it leans more heavily on keys and drum patterns—Powers will tear off a guitar hook that stops the listener in their tracks. At first listen, the record appears to be a private, small thing, but then a song such as “Posters” transforms into a big, Postal Service-esque pop song.
The Year of Hibernation occupies many spaces at once, a seeming contradiction that makes better use of its incongruous pieces than most records do of its complimentary pieces. The result is both mournful and joyful, but totally enjoyable. (www.facebook.com/youthlagoon)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10