Youth Lagoon: “Idaho Alien”

Trevor Powers was a 22-year-old from Boise, Idaho, when a solo project he’d dubbed Youth Lagoon won him a peculiar kind of fame: online indie stardom in the last days before digital streaming. His voice was small, his lyrics riddled with anxiety, but his music was always big and bold enough to bowl you over, like Boise predecessors Built to Spill’s “movies of my dreams” come to life. Then he retired the project, saying that he’d lost his way. 

“Idaho Alien,” the lead single from Powers’ first Youth Lagoon album in eight years, Heaven Is a Junkyard, is a striking reclamation of artistic identity. Powers’ fragile quaver remains front and center, only now he’s sketching a very different image of his home state: Idaho is still a “frontier” to boldly explore, but it’s shattered by drug use and self-harm. The production distills Powers’ career-long drift toward avant-pop while adding a fresh element to it, as lonesome roadhouse piano and a sturdy Beatles-esque rhythm section brush up against disembodied R&B vocals and eerie electronic flourishes. “Daddy come home/And Daddy’s on junk,” Powers sings, inhabiting a narrator who’s both colloquial and unsettling. Youth Lagoon is back; it’s not your daddy’s Youth Lagoon this time.