Youth Lagoon’s sophomore album “Wondrous Bughouse” is nothing short of a magnum opus. It has something for everyone: the bubblegum pop kids, the experimental cats and the beat groovers. The album’s lush quality is likely to be bottlenecked into the dream pop genre, but one should not ignore frontman Trevor Powers’ ability to explore the avant-garde side of music.  My own classification of this record would be circusy angst-pop.

“Through Mind and Back” starts out the collection with a glitchy electronic atmosphere. The prelude is a haze of twinkling background sounds and intentionally detuned pianos that foreshadow the melancholic theme of the record. There are various speaker-panning tricks at work here, which makes it seem as if the sonance buzzes and zaps around inside the listener’s head; this lends a richness to the sounds that may otherwise be considered stagnant.

The first structured song (and one of my favorite pieces) “Mute” explodes into a plush beat that may trick the listener into thinking this is an upbeat album, but make no mistake—this collection of songs is rather dark, both in their message and in their sonic spirits.The drums are simple and driven, which gives this piece a head-grooving feel. It then transitions into a down tempo organ section, an exciting break for those who enjoy rhythm changes in their music. The drums and guitar dance with one another, both instruments frequently meeting in little touches of oscillating lo-fi crackles. The track ends with a piano that makes one think of a crime detective show with its slow progression and ominous ambiance.

Up next, “The Bath” features a very oceanic-sounding middle section. Powers’ croons are mournful and filtered, as if they were recorded underwater. The pacific singing is grievous and continuously swirls about with a concoction of other noises, including percussive clinking and a bizarre organ that wobbles out a melody. Then the song immerses itself in its own aqueous broth, turning into a luscious haze of electronic synths that wipe across the piece.  Powers then introduces some mellow action through a bass and guitar.

The last of the bunch, “Daisyphobia,” kicks off with a swirling atmosphere. The down tempo exposes Powers’ ability to start and end an album gently. The song contains a kooky organization of sounds, which is headed by a high-pitched, crinkling key instrument. Youth Lagoon’s innovative qualities seem to dig up a niche of its own, fusing pop melodies with unsettling organs. Powers has created something truly unique—a genre of his own. Although the year is young, it’s going to be difficult to find an album this year that I will enjoy more than this one.

Rating: 5 stars