Savage Hills Ballroom
Sep 22, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES
Much was made of Youth Lagoon's sheltered psychedelia almost immediately. Fat Possum's quick trigger finger led to the release of Trevor Powers' official debut, The Year of Hibernation, and the album landed on most Best Albums lists by year's end. Two years later, Wondrous Bughouse showed an artist leaving the bedroom for the sake of exploration, but the results were no less rewarding (or rewarded). Youth Lagoon, once again, was a critical darling.
This year will be no different. Savage Hills Ballroom is another strong, stirring release from Powers, marked by rough edges and refined vulnerability. Powers dives headfirst into the sonic toy chest once again—the alarm clock and horns of "The Knower," the cheerleading on "No One Can Tell"—but Powers' near feminine, fragile tenor vocal holds the pieces of this experimental puzzle in place.
Savage Hills Ballroom's strongest tracks kick off each side with "Officer Telephone" and "Rotten Human" respectively. Each feature sparse instrumentation behind Powers' front-and-center vocal for the first minute before giving way to angles and layers that build, sway, and attack. The former's aggression provides a perfect jumpstart for the entire album, while the latter's tenderness remains even as the snare and harmonies are added.
Powers' lyrics tend toward the macro, with big-picture takes on cultural shifts or human nature. On "The Knower" Powers sings, "Everybody wants to think they're not what they ate/Everybody wants to think that they're good at heart when they're full of hate." Again, it's Powers' delicate delivery that lends some gravity to each line, however impersonal it may be.
While some tracks just aren't that interesting, including "Kerry" and instrumental tracks like "Doll's Estate," Savage Hills Ballroom has highlights worth celebrating. Three albums in, Youth Lagoon will likely remain as lauded as before.
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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