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Youth Lagoon: Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)

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Wondrous Bughouse, the second album by Youth Lagoon (the stage moniker of Idahoan Trevor Powers), is a discursive and eccentric album, perhaps even more so than his 2011 debut, The Year of Hibernation. Bughouse opens with 2 1/2 minutes of shapeless ambient glitches and ghostly piano. Though that opening might give the impression that this album isn't focused or driven by ideas, what follows is epic in scope and ambition. Where Hibernation traced out a small but bracing internal galaxy, Bughouse is fiercely cosmological, from Powers singing about "time and space" on "Sleep Paralysis" to the ramshackle sci-fi-pop on "Attic Doctor" that mixes in Doctor Who-esque sound effects with its melody.

Obviously, Bughouse is a weird record, as evidenced by the croaking, inhuman vocals on "Pelican Man" that segue into a nearly transcendent bridge, where the song suddenly morphs into something both psychedelic and orchestral. Ugliness turns to beauty and back again quite often here. "Raspberry Cane" is the album's most epic and beautiful song.

Though strange and experimental, what sets Bughouse apart is its unerring ear for pop. While its songs tend to fall apart in places, they always come back together forcefully to deliver song craft. That tumbling in and out of form is what makes this album so compelling.

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