Youth Lagoon's 2011 debut, The Year of Hibernation, earned praise for its fragile intimacy, but songwriter Trevor Powers has achieved something much grander and more ambitious with Wondrous Bughouse. The keyboards and synthetic beats have been replaced by ornate, full-band arrangements overlaid with a dense tapestry of swirling overdubs and warped psychedelia, courtesy of producer Ben H. Allen. The production values mean that, even though Powers' reverent anthems aren't a huge departure from what he's done in the past, the results have added gravitas. At times, the results are magical: Powers' voice has never sounded so soaring and confident as on the crescendo of "Mute," while "Pelican Man" and "Dropola" are simultaneously triumphant and paranoid. While at others, the overstuffed arrangements distract from the songs, and the lengthy instrumental passages on tracks like "Attic Doctor" slow the record's momentum. Still, considering Wondrous Bughouse's glorious highlights, its successes outweigh its flaws.
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