The beloved indie rocker played his excellent new album and old hits at Music Hall of Williamsburg
It’s a comfortable, easy-weathered night in New York City, you know the ones where the air feels like nothing, and a T-shirt with jeans will do. It’s fitting for an evening to hear Youth Lagoon’s newest record Heaven is a Junkyard for the first time at Music Hall of Williamsburg – his first record in eight years. Since Youth Lagoon’s been gone plenty has changed, but in those years for frontman Trevor Powers, his identity as a musician was brought into question. After putting Youth Lagoon to rest following the release of Savage Hills Ballroom in 2015, Powers experienced life-altering health issues that resulted in the loss of his voice which spiraled him into depression. “Life threw me against a brick wall and it was exactly what I needed to wake me up,” Powers said before playing “Trapeze Artist”.
There was never an absence of humanity in Youth Lagoon’s art, that’s why The Year of Hibernation is one of the best indie albums of the 2010s. But, on Heaven is a Junkyard, Powers does somehow feel more alive. And not in the feverish happy-go-lucky present the word alive may suggest, but in the innate realities of living; solitude, addiction, depression but also nostalgia, self-criticism, and best echoed in the chorus of “The Sling,” “love and memory.” What did Powers do when he was forced to sit in solitude with the memories of all that could have been and may never be; he remembered everything...And thus, Heaven is a Junkyard was born.
The show opened with two of the record’s singles, “Rabbit” and “Prizefighter.” Both songs layered in production and lyrics parade what Powers does best, these compositions unveil his sonically easy-listening songs’ complexities. It was a heart-warming moment to witness the audience sing along to the chorus of “Prizefighter” along with Powers: “I got the world, so I’ll be fine /I got the sunshine, to figure me out.” There’s an ease in giving nature the power to discover your identity.
“The Sling” was one of the most intimate moments of the evening, just Powers at the keyboard with his eerie vocals singing the song’s haunting melody, “Heaven is a junkyard and it’s my home.” The setlist skimmed across the new records, “Mercury,” “Little Devil From The Country” & “Idaho Alien” as well as “Afternoons” and the encore closing the show with The Year of Hibernation’s “17” and Wondrous Bughouse’s “Dropola.”
You discover the true gem in Youth Lagoon’s music when you uncover what’s below the surface: the beauty of Idaho; the canyons and plains and vastness, placed next to its abandoned junkyards. The imaginative stories of aliens coming to visit; that very imagination creating stories to hold onto staying alive. Loneliness, in the junkyard, is a treasure best discovered in hindsight. There is a deep sense of peace and acceptance portrayed through the sonics of this record, but that peace is only best revealed when understanding the pain and fear that hides amongst the lyrics.
In both the album and his performance, Powers delves into the horror of facing himself in his darkest hour. “Heal my hurt with the love that I gave/ Will the loneliness fade?” Powers whispers gently during “Mercury.” Powers accepts that he may never be able to answer that question, but what he can guarantee is the love he has for the world and his craft. Heaven is a junkyard, and Youth Lagoon finally feels at home.