Last Updated on January 8, 2024
As soon as this album starts I fall slightly in love with it. There’s a smoothness to the aural aesthetic that’s calming, friendly and reassuring. I love the field recordings of (kids?) voices?
I’ve heard a few albums like this over the years. The gentle piano and meandering guitars tend to be a signal for incoming melancholy. Youth Lagoon has half-mumbled/whispered vocals that also fit into the misery vibe. But there’s something very uplifting about ‘Heaven is a Junkyard’, I just can’t place what that is.
I’m starting to notice a trend in the list of Pitchfork’s Best Albums of 2023 list – short songs. Heaven in a Junkyard is a short album of short songs. Each track is the perfect length. Songs say what they have to say, establish themselves, and then bow out when the job is done. Nice.
The gentle joy of this album is in the childlike delivery of the vocals. Think Moe Tucker in the Velvet Underground track ‘After Hours’. But unlike the venerable Moe, the singer of Youth Lagoon as total control of his or her voice.
The vocals travel; they meander gently but always carry the listener along for the journey. This is a voice that is a long walk with a friend you’ve not seen for years, and they want to hear everything you’ve been up to, while excitedly sharing details of their life. This is the voice of a loved one who listens and, without interrupting or diverting the conversations, tells you delightful, uplifting tales.
I don’t want to give you the impression that this album is in any way vague. It captures a wonderful mood while being very sure of itself. The slight Leslie Cabinet-style vocal effect and the artificial lo-fi tape wobble sit in the mix wonderfully.
The instrumentation on this album is fascinating to me. It’s mostly the traditional mix of piano, bass and drums, but there are just so many other elements to Youth Lagoon. I hesitate to name the other elements, partly because I have no idea what most of them are. Everything augments gently, nothing interferes or over rides any part of the song.
This isn’t the type of album I would listen to every day, or possibly even every month. But I know there will be a time in the future when listening to Heaven is a Junkyard by Youth Lagoon will be like medicine.