Outside of Youth Lagoon, Trevor Powers is trying to change the face of pop and boy does he have some things to say. For this new record, Powers takes all the conventions we’ve gotten used to and flips them in bizarre and abrasive ways. Though it can sometimes feel like a little much, Powers rarely goes far enough to stop being catchy
Without tempering himself at all, Powers comes out shouting through pianos as the record starts on “XTQ Idol.” This abrasive angle on pop, and a totally demented sense of production makes for a track that’s immediately catchy but endlessly intriguing. Even with the initially ambient tones of “Dicegame,” powers finds sharp moments to take all the way and turn into sonic weapons. This turns into a fierce mood-piece that shifts from meditative harmonies to explosive feedback loops that may even go so far as scaring you.
Despite the gripping mix of tones and moments that fall right into something catchy “Pretend It’s Confetti” is just too disjointed to feel like anything besides a heady interlude. Fun and experimental as it is, it’s unlikely most listeners will take this one in outside of full album listens. “Clad In Skin” however blends infectious pop hooks with piercing mixes to make something that not only gets stuck in your head but is distinct enough to stay there. By subverting most of the pop conventions it plays with, the song feels like pop taken to the next level.
“Playwright” can feel a tad pretentious in its spritely little guitar playing at times, but as soon as the pianos and keyboards start to play, the song becomes a beast of its own. Though its stops and starts can feel exhausting at times, Powers keeps upping the ante every time he starts things back up. “Film It All” can sound just like overblown radio-pop as it starts, but as Powers takes on a rasp, his own production grains out so much that it starts to reflect his anger. This emotional match makes for gripping pop that constantly pushes the envelope without losing its accessible qualities.
However on “Squelch” Powers dives into a ritualistic mantra and seems to embody a more macabre energy in his weird electronica. Though this doesn’t feel abrasive, it sometimes feels too absent of moments to keep you coming back. “Ache” however keeps evolving Powers’ quirky take on pop, and sees him producing something with a little more smack in its mix.
“Plaster Saint” does tend to feel a little more straightforward in terms of its writing, while Powers delivers a completely frantic mix and sense of sound to the song. By bringing this unique voice to his most accessible pop, he creates something that more guarded listeners might hold onto. Through swirling chords that become anxious as they go on, “Common Hoax” is a practice in the power of tone-shifting. With this and some heavily thematic chords, this is as epic of a finale as Powers has ever written.
Words by Owen Maxwell