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Reflections on Youth Lagoon and Gardens and Villa by John Scherer

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In some respects, that Youth Lagoon and Gardens and Villa are touring together is a bit of an anomaly.  Youth Lagoon, which is the creative project of 22-year-old Trevor Powers is a contemplative and positively gorgeous act.  Trevor commands the room with a unique style.  The music unfolds in somewhat predictable form by building on itself starting with hushed, almost child-like, vocals and adding layers of drum machines, broad reverb and tightly knit guitar hooks that hug the melody like a years-old pair of jeans.  It all works.  And it’s music that kills live.  It fills a room until the sound bends back on itself, which lets the melody engage in a sort of play that intrigues in a rather surprising way.  Of course, it helps to sit right in front of the sound board, which is my locale of choice during any live show.  But any spot probably would have been ideal with such a well-rehearsed act. 

The entire evening, I kept wondering why Youth Lagoon weren’t headlining, or perhaps why the show was not just a double billing.  Trevor’s rising fast, with widespread critical acclaim and the coveted Pitchfork “Best New Music” nod.  He’s on the fast track.  Moreover, he’s making music that people really resonate with.  It only helps that his signature sound is impressively beautiful.  Save for a few feedback issues, The Ladies Literary Club was an ideal spot for a great opening act. 

The evening progressed seamlessly to Gardens and Villa, which, despite my skepticism, are a genuinely impressive band.  They reminded me of a lot of things, (The Faint, Yeasayer, Cut Copy, at various intervals), but the act is really all its own.  G&V lead Chris Lynch knows how to command a room and endear himself to a crowd, even if his approach is informed by a coyness that certainly doesn’t come out in the music.  He’s engaging (as is the whole band).  And in a conversation after the show, Chris and the band had a chance to humanize themselves even further when they riffed on some audience-led questions about their reading habits (which far exceed mine) and musical inspiration.  I think most of us felt the urge to hang out with the band, which I regard as indicative of a certain sincerity that engenders good music. 

The night moved from introspection to outward expression in a way that felt pretty natural.  I just wish more people had been there to join in the fun.