News, Reviews

Youth Lagoon Returns With First New Album in 8 Years, “Heaven Is a Junkyard” out June 9th via Fat Possum

March 4, 2023
Photo credit: Tyler T. Williams

YOUTH LAGOON

Returns with first new album in eight years

 ‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’ out June 9th on Fat Possum

Youth Lagoon – the beloved project of Trevor Powers – returns with the announcement of ‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’, his first new album in eight years, out June 9th on Fat Possum. Alongside the album announcement comes a new single/video, “ Idaho Alien.”

With whispers of country, Heaven Is a Junkyard’ is mutant Americana in a world of love, drugs, storytelling, and miracles—held together by Powers’ voice and an upright piano. In Powers’ own words, “Heaven Is a Junkyard is about all of us. It’s stories of brothers leaving for war, drunk fathers learning to hug, mothers falling in love, neighbors stealing mail, cowboys doing drugs, friends skipping school, me crying in the bathtub, dogs catching rabbits, and children playing in tall grass.”
 
Following 2011’s The Year Of Hibernation, 2013’s Wondrous Bughouse and 2015’s Savage Hills Ballroom, in 2016, Trevor Powers shut the door on Youth Lagoon. “I felt like I was in a chokehold,” he says. “Even though it was my music, I lost my way. In a lot of ways, I lost myself.” Stepping back from the alias, Powers found personal transformation at his home in Idaho and released experimental tapes under his own name (2018’s Mulberry Violence and 2020’s Capricorn). “My mind has always been a devil,” says Powers. “It tells me terrible things—like I’m worthless, ugly, or broken. It’s like a motel TV stuck on a channel that won’t shut off, with static and endless late-night ads and preachers screaming about the end of the world.” In October 2021, something changed the channel. 
 
After taking an over-the-counter medication, Powers had a drug reaction so severe it turned his stomach into a “non-stop geyser of acid,” coating his larynx and vocal cords for eight months. “I saw seven doctors and multiple specialists. I lost over thirty pounds. No one could help me,” says Powers. By Christmas, he could no longer speak, turning to text messages and a pen and paper as his only ways to communicate. “I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to speak again, let alone sing,” he says. “It all felt symbolic in a way,” he adds. “I’d been swallowing fear all my life and now here it was coming back up.” 
 
The growth that followed that nightmare narrowed Powers’ focus. Rather than writing about the world at large, he started writing about home. “Family, neighbors, and grim reapers,” laughs Powers. “I’ve always written about far away things, but the best material has been right in front of me this whole time in Idaho.” 
 
Throughout the album, he stitches together a lyrical style that feels both punk and western. “Daddy come home, and Daddy’s on junk,” Powers sings on “Idaho Alien”—nestled between a saloon-style piano and a rhythmic hiss that sounds like a baby monitor. “I wait for good mistakes,” says Powers. “I spend a lot of time feeling around in the dark. For every thousand ideas I have, I have one good mistake. I was fuckin’ around on the piano one day and found ‘Idaho Alien.’ It felt like it already existed and I just dug it up. 
 
“I’ve always loved old hardboiled crime novels. They’re twisted but pure. ‘Idaho Alien’ comes from that space. Home often feels like a Jim Thompson book,” explains Powers. “One of my neighbors smokes meth all day and mows the lawn at 2:00 am. Her boyfriend lived in a tent in her backyard, and one day she locked him out of the house so he went as far as trying to stab her. He got sent to prison for 10 years. She told me she still loves him, and I told her she deserves better. The last time I asked her not to mow the lawn at 2:00 am, we wound up talking about aliens and Subway sandwiches. Every November, a church group rakes her leaves and tells her about Jesus. I don’t think it’s working.” 
 
The accompanying video, directed by Tyler T. Williams, was filmed largely in the farming town of Kuna, Idaho. “Ty and I found the right spot and parked our truck in the clearing,” says Powers. “Fifteen minutes later, two black trucks pull up. Ten teens with shotguns and automatic rifles get out. This is normal in Idaho. They start shooting at the dirt by each other’s feet and using liquor bottles as clay pigeons. Still pretty normal. Then they take a shot at a car driving past on the highway. This wouldn’t be considered normal,” he laughs. Powers and Williams drove up the hill to take a dinner break and wait for the kids to leave. “We could tell they were shooting into the air now cuz we could hear the bullets coming down in the wind. Right before magic hour, wartime finally ended, and we heard their trucks peel out. We went back to the clearing and set up the camera. Their shotgun shells make an appearance in the video at the 10 second mark,” Powers says. “The scenes with the dad and young drifter were filmed the following day in Nampa, Idaho by the train depot. That’s their house… they’re a real father and son. This story couldn’t have been told without them.”

What a remarkable return, striking, sincere, and soulful. Trevor brings this immense tenderness to the forefront of this melodious movement. There’s always been this ability to grip the audience in any of Powers’ outlets and with the new single, that ability cuts through with such ease. Youth Lagoon solidified itself as vital for so many years, and the new return welcomes that status re-confirmed.

Recorded in six weeks with co-producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Adele, Gil Scott-Heron), ‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’ is a work of absolute devotion. A portrait of the God-haunted American West. And a reminder that there is always love in the tall grass. 
 
“Youth Lagoon was never the chokehold,” he pauses. “I was.” 


 
‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’ track list:
1. Rabbit
2. Idaho Alien 
3. Prizefighter
4. The Sling
5. Lux Radio Theatre
6. Deep Red Sea
7. Trapeze Artist
8. Mercury
9. Little Devil from the Country
10. Helicopter Toy 
 

https://youthlagoon.lnk.to/HeavenIsaJunkyard
 

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