Over half a decade ago, Youth Lagoon called it quits. Trevor Powers, the creative mind behind the moniker, felt overburdened by it. With the success and praise of his debut album “Year of Hibernation,” Powers felt alienated by what it had become. From the perceptions of others, the project morphed into something that he no longer related to. A mutated beast left unchained, scowling back at him menacingly. It became too much for him to handle, at a time when he felt lost and couldn’t identify with himself as a person, so he dropped everything so he could survey new frontiers.
During that time Trevor Powers released music under his own name, with 2018’s “Mulberry Violence,” a more glitched-out, experimental rendition of the flooding power-pop he did as Youth Lagoon, and 2020’s “Capricorn,” an ambient, minimalistic electronic album much akin to Brian Eno, or Mort Garson’s work. These albums were made from his attempts to grapple with his own self-perception.
Near the end of 2021, Powers was faced with a sudden medical emergency. A drastic bad reaction to an over-the-counter medicine had his stomach acid bubbling upwards. The vapors from that eruption lingered on. His throat was coated in acid leaving Powers unable to speak for extended periods of time. Powers described the experience as a “mini death” that resulted in him having this feeling of rebirth. Having his body destroyed, and then being forced to reassemble all those pieces, it allowed him to transform into a person he better recognized.
Image via Lightning 100
That led to the creation of “Heaven is a Junkyard” and a return to Youth Lagoon. Powers’ tender damaged voice tells stories of characters with parallels to his experiences over the past few years. From that pain there comes a sense of comfort, from the growth of working through it all and striving to come out the other side. It feels free of anxiety. “Heaven is a Junkyard” has a loungey feel to it with creaking basslines, shallow pianos and light, serene instrumentation. The album has a clean production value to it and ripples, like drops of water into a puddle. This is in contrast to the lo-fi, gushing climaxes in previous Youth Lagoon releases.
The Youth Lagoon show at Gabe’s in Iowa City marks the fourth show on his new tour for “Heaven is a Junkyard,” the first one in over five years. Since it has been so long, it’s kind of a mystery what the performance will be like. It won’t be the glammed-out, bathed in colorful LED light indie pop concert that was the archetype in the early 2010’s. Powers has grown out of that. Besides Gabe’s can’t really fit that. Yet, will Youth Lagoon pull out a song like “Cannons” or any other one from that era, or have they been permanently laid to rest? Likely the performance will reflect the growth and change that Youth Lagoon has found itself in.
Youth Lagoon will be at Gabe’s in Iowa City on Tuesday, July 18th as his fourth stop on his first tour in over five years. You can listen to “Heaven is a Junkyard” and the rest of his discography on Bandcamp and other streaming services.