Youth Lagoon plays "Wondrous Bughouse" at the Larimer Lounge (review) - Reverb

Youth Lagoon at the Larimer Lounge, 03/01/13 (review)

By Erik Myers

It felt weird watching 17-year-olds singing along with “17” at Youth Lagoon’s sold-out Larimer Lounge show on Friday night. But even before the one-off encore, I was already in a strange mood. Earlier in the evening, the pirouetting keyboard melody of “Sleep Paralysis,” combined with the blue and purple stage lights, triggered visions of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” And while Trevor Powers’ high-pitched inflection is too somber to actually match SpongeBob’s, he would’ve made a better guest than Sebastian Bach.

His music affects the senses in a manner similar to Candy Claws, conjuring memories more animated than reality typically allows. Few in the crowd were more than a couple of years removed from the 23-year-old singer-songwriter. I had to assume they too were indulging in memories. But unlike Who fans watching their heroes from their Pepsi Center seats, we were reminiscing on things barely behind us.

Simon Reynolds frets over this very phenomenon in his book “Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past.” He argues technology has emboldened the past to the point where it “lurks just beneath the surface of the current, in the form of on-screen windows to other times.” As a result, entertainment — music in particular — has become entrenched in its own heritage. Referencing recent trends such as freak folk, chillwave and lo-fi labels hawking their wares on cassette, he imagines a disturbing future in which technology progresses, but art more or less repeats itself at an accelerating rate.

The notion that creativity has reached a standstill seems a little alarmist. But in this regard, Powers is without the innocence he reappropriates from bedtime melodies and “Galaga” synths. His youthful charm is present even in the tracks off “Wondrous Bughouse,” his death-obsessed new record (and that’s with only passing consideration to its’ maritime melodies.) “You’ll never die, you’ll never die,” Powers softly chanted from behind his keys throughout an extended rendition of “Dropola,” leading into one of several jam bridges casually mixed into the music during the evening.

But his revisions are crafted with remarkable musicality and performed with an unusual amount of care, witnessed firsthand when he and his three-man band spent 15 minutes on stage before the set working through each and every possible level with the sound guy. It paid off even before they returned, when the prerecorded bass burbles of “Through Mind And Back” flooded the room and stirred the crowd.

Youth Lagoon went on to a flawless performance. I was disappointed only in myself, having instinctively grabbed a paper from a street teamer outside the exit offering “free Radiohead tickets” and coming away with a show flyer for Kink Ador. Some things never change.

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Electronic blogger Erik Myers is a Denver-based writer and contributor to Reverb. Contact him at erikmye@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.