On a WTF Podcast with Marc Maron, drummer Dave Grohl quipped, "living for the moment is a great way to live, but a horrible way to survive." Having just gone through a week-long Spring Break trip with two friends of mine, I couldn't agree more. There are few things we want more than to feel alive, to the hear the thudding of our own heart in our chest as we push forward into the unknown. But it's a pace that's impossible to keep up; we need day off from our work or a day to detox from a few too many drinks. More than anything else, "Wondrous Bughouse," the second LP from Trevor Powers' Youth Lagoon project, is about negotiating the terrain between living and surviving.
The sci-fi indebted opener sounds quite literally like a search, a moon rover scanning for signs of intelligent life or a beating heart. The instrumental meditation bleeds into the heartfelt "Mute" where roses are growing and fables are told at a feverish pace. The shrill deviations on the track serve not only as an unofficial chorus, but a portal into a land of make believe as brilliant as the cover. A "3D world," where death exists, but can't quite clutch us.
Death is ever-present on first single "Dropla" as well, were the steady tinning of sleigh bells on the track tap into the pure ecstasy of an early Christmas morning. The song is a portal back to a time when the only worry we had was unwrapping presents and the mantra of "you'll never die," seemed more fact than fiction. As is the case with "Dropla" and several other songs on the record, the stereo panning that recalls Tame Impala, pops up throughout the album and suits these churning melodies well.
"Sleep Paralysis" is musically the closest Powers comes to turning the wondrous into the wicked. The track replete with lyrics of "strangers" and "grave mistakes" is buoyed by a lurching 1, 2 backbeat marching down a pitch black forest road. "Attic Doctor" has its own menace, a steady dancehall spill over into a slow moving Flaming Lips acid trip. "I won't die easily," Powers sings deeply buried in the mix. It's one of many to stubbornly thumb its nose at death, to cast away tomorrow and cling to today.
The sonic sheen of this album serves as a clear indication that "Year of Hibernation," was born not out of choice but circumstance. And much like the music on "Wondrous Bughouse" plays out as an evolution of that album's "lo-fi" bedroom pop aesthetic, so too do the lyrics. Powers has grown up tremendously in the time since his first LP, and is much more world-weary. Those walls he once covered over with "Posters" are moving closer and closer in. The penultimate track "Raspberry Cane" which flies over a swirling psychedelic sea timidly builds into a song of acceptance. Ringing piano fades in and out, as Powers waves goodbye to the misspent mantras of youth and raises a glass high to the inevitability of aging.
When listening to this album, the question of who would want to live forever rings out from every peak of these 10 tracks. As we age, our past becomes a fog as we struggle to recall and reconfigure our cloudy childhood memories. Living forever then would in practice become, living for the past, struggling to recapture something that can never be caught. Powers learns that lesson on "Wondrous Bughouse" and toasts to death. In the end, accepting death makes living all the easier.