This is a review coming at you from the future. Savage Hills Ballroom won’t be released until the 25th of September, but luckily NPR has posted it in its entirety for your listening pleasure. What a treat. I first discovered Youth Lagoon while I was studying in London, soon after he had released his first album The Year of Hibernation. Trevor Powers hooked me right from the get-go. His first album is fantastic and caused me to neglect many of my other albums for weeks. If you aren’t familiar with Youth Lagoon, definitely check out his first album. The problem came with release of album number two, Wondrous Bughouse. His second album, left more than a little to be desired. I find it nearly un-listenable. So with the release of album number three, I was a little apprehensive. Savage Hills Ballroom is a good album. It is better than Wondrous Bughouse, but fails to rise to the same level as The Year of Hibernation.
One thing that can be said about Trevor Powers is that he is always evolving his sound. The lo-fi sound of The Year of Hibernation develops quite nicely into a more vocally focused Savage Hills Ballroom, if you ignore the cacophony that was Wondrous Bughouse. This album feels much more naturally like the next step from his first album. The instrumentals a just as poppy as the The Year of Hibernation and a little more electronic. The biggest difference would be the focus and clarity of the vocals. The sound was a welcomed change.
When it comes to the actual content of the album, it starts with a bang. The first four songs are all quite good, with catchy melodies, interesting but still enjoyable vocals and lovely instrumentals. Despite this great start the album struggles to keep my interest past track four. Track two, “Highway Patrol Stun Gun” and track three, “The Knower”, are a fantastic pair of songs that will likely keep me revisiting the album. At track five, “Doll’s Estate” has some beautiful instrumentals, but a bit boring and this causes the album to lose a lot of momentum. The following three tracks are rather forgettable and fail to engage the listener as well as tracks one through four. One positive of the second half is the song “Free Me”, which features a memorable tune and catchy vocals, but it isn’t enough to save the last half of the album.
After the letdown that was Wondrous Bughouse, I feel this new release to be quite satisfying. All the songs feel like a part of a unified whole, and about half are memorable. These five tracks will likely have me returning from to the album from time to time, but maybe with a heavy thumb on the skip button. Who knows, with future listens the other tracks might appeal to me more and more; I hope they do. I can’t quite bring myself to give it a four so I’ll have to say 3 out of 5 stars.