Back in early 2010, everybody was looking forward to MGMT’s Congratulations. Personally, it was a flop. Congratulations represented, for me at least, the epitome of a sophomore slump album. It tried too hard to be something that blew everyone’s mind. Sure, Oracular Spectacular was amazing because it was weird. It was just that Congratulations pushed the boundaries past the line where it seemed acceptable.
The new Youth Lagoon album, Wondrous Bughouse, reminds me a lot of that attempt to go down the path where MGMT’s second album failed. To begin with, the name Wondrous Bughouse makes the album
scream feel weird. That is exactly what it is. From the get go, with the first song, “Through Mind and Back”, I found myself wondering what was going on. What mess did I get into? Did I just enter the mindspace of some avant-garde film?
But as soon as that doubt in your mind appears, the doubt of whether to continue down this rabbit hole, the next song starts. “Mute“ is triumphant, simply put. I would liken it to the feeling of waking up refreshed to sunlight, or beating that rival school at curling, or god knows whatever makes you feel triumphant. A dominant guitar riff reverberates throughout the song, maintaining some sense of harmony. This isn’t Year of Hibernation anymore is it? Year of Hibernation was single-tracked; it seemed delicate, almost like that beautiful piece of porcelain in your dining room. By the middle of “Mute”, it is quite evident that Trevor Powers didn’t want this piece to be like porcelain. The deep layering of this album, instead, seems more like that old tie dye shirt your parents have in the attic.
With the middle tracks, you can hear the flower power come back. When I was writing notes for this album on my first listen, I wrote down, “So this is what acid must feel like”. The sixth track, “Dropla”, I found to be the “star track” of the album. It starts just like many of the songs on this album, layered and even with the increased beat. Again, I harken back to the emotional base of Powers’ first album. His consistent droning, “You’ll never die/You’ll never die…” juxtaposed against the optimistic sounds in the background has an intense impact on the listener.
I think a friend of mine said it best: Year of Hibernation was amazing. Yet it was also an “internal” album, whereas Wondrous Bughouse is an “external” album. It shouts at you while the first album sorta squeaked at you. I didn’t find Wondrous Bughouse to be all that great through the first three or four listens- I seriously tried. I love Youth Lagoon, but it was a sophomore album similar to red wine. Just as one should let a bottle breathe over time, exchanging oxygen in a decanter, the same must be done with this album. It could grow on a listener. Perhaps I could be like a certain music reviewing website and revise my rating, but I believe one can judge music on a certain quality. And that quality is if you let Wondrous Bughouse in to your life, maybe– and only just maybe– it will love you back.
buy it here at Fat Possum Records