Compact Review: Youth Lagoon’s Savage Hills Ballroom

Youth Lagoon – Savage Hills Ballroom
Released: September 25, 2015

Rating: 84/100

Isn’t it beautiful when a bedroom recording project blooms into something significant? Trevor Powers has been releasing music under the Youth Lagoon moniker since 2010 but his music has always sounded like a private project that just happened to find its way out into the world. Both of his previous LP’s, The Year of Hibernation (2011) and Wondrous Bughouse (2013), sound sonically adventurous but emotionally reserved. With the release of Youth Lagoon’s third LP Savage Hills Ballroom, Powers finds new ways to experiment while opening his sound to a wider audience and the result is a confidently ambitions and consistently satisfying indie rock record.

Savage Hills Ballroom is a bright collection of indie chamber pop that relies just as heavily on drum machine patterns and synths as it does sprawling orchestral textures. In the midst of Powers’ collage of sounds, Savage Hills Ballroom achieves a tonal balance somewhere between delicately veiled mystery and brash optimism. The contrasting ideas collide throughout the album and give Savage Hills Ballroom a dramatic tension, with each tack playing out more like a scene than a song. Combined with Powers’ narrative driven lyrics, the constantly shifting cinematic arrangements sound boldly captivating and confrontational, a welcome turn for the notoriously insular artist. Each of the sonic vignettes explore some new territory but maintain linked with underlying tension of the album.

Savage Hills Ballroom is full of moments of transformation, with the arrangements suddenly unraveling or catalyzing into something profoundly more interesting. Despite its distorted pop sensibilities, this album is both more daring and more accessible the previous Youth Lagoon records and this is a byproduct of Savage Hills Ballroom‘s strength of character. Emboldened by some unseen power, Youth Lagoon has created one of most compelling indie rock records of 2015.

Top Tracks: “Highway Patrol Stun Gun”, “Kerry”, “The Knower”



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