Feature: Bluesfest 2012 – Youth Lagoon

Every year, Ottawa Bluesfest draws an impressive group of artists from different genres to lay their sound down on Lebretton Flats. This year is certainly no exception. After a bittersweet 2011 festival (which included scary storms, a stage collapse, and some cancellations), Bluesfest 2012’s lineup provides an excellent mix of renowned, lesser known, and local area musicians. As a series of features, I will examine some lesser known and local artists that are particularly worth your time if you plan on attending the festival in June. In my experience, you will often be surprised with what you may find when seeing an band or artist you haven’t heard much of.
Youth Lagoon
Boise, Idaho, US
Active since 2010
Ottawa Bluesfest 2012: July 14th
23-year old Trevor Powers is an unlikely breakout artist. His project, Youth Lagoon, has gained serious traction since the debut LP release Year of Hibernation in September 2011 on Fat Possum Records. As far as indie goes, Powers has hit it big with this debut album (it should be noted that the LP was recorded and mixed in his room). Since recording finished a year and a half ago, Year of Hibernationhas become a furiously blogged and well-received album. Pitchfork gave it an 8.4 rating and spot on its “Top 50 Albums of 2011”, obtaining similar reviews across the board.
Similar to Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Powers seemingly locked himself away and poured his heart out writing the songs on Year of Hibernation. The delicate synths, perpetual reverb, and shy vocals provide the dreamy undertones that deliver listeners to a place where he tells of twenty-something tribulations. Having dealt with anxiety and heartbreak, the album is a story that unfolds in way that so many of us can relate with. The song that got me hooked is called “Bobby“, which, ironically is not a part of the standard issue LP (included as a digital release on the 7” bonus disc that comes along with the vinyl LP). It, like so many others, is laden with emotion that makes it quite difficult to stop listening. It opens with the lyrics:

You camped out in my mind
and told me evil things
like a demon I cant find
but I named you.
I named you.
Youth Lagoon’s DIY approach to producing this album serves as a symbol of truth to the music. Powers explains – “I just want to perform music in an honest way” and this is exactly how it comes across. The songs are intimate and peaceful, yet tearing in a way that resembles Daniel Johnston’s music (see “Some Things Last a Long Time”). However, throughout the album the wispy keyboard and creative drum loops keep things moving with occasional build-ups that temper the melancholic aspect of the music.

Youth Lagoon is a must-see for people interested in attending Bluesfest. I think a lot of individuals go for the headliners, but I am a proponent of experimenting with new music. Who knows, if you end up at the stage Youth Lagoon is playing at on June 14th, we may even run into each other.