Savage Hills Ballroom could be described as Trevor Powers’ most meaningful and honest record yet. After losing a good friend in an accident, Powers says he was forced to change his perspective on music, making it more personal and meaningful. In his new album, he’s dealing with negative feelings without inspiring or demanding pity. He establishes an emotional connection without suffocating his listeners.The first track on the album, Officer Telephone gives a good first impression of the overall vibe of the album. However, it does not set the tone for what kind of music you can expect.
The common thread that runs through the album is not immediately apparent but comes through in the use of elements like strings and brass, which are purposefully introduced to make you sigh for past times which aren’t even yours, but Power’s own. But the album is not sad or hopeless. It’s the kind of music that feels like staring at the ceiling in silent contemplation of your own existence.
Fat Possum Records, the blues, rock and hip hop label, having recently turned towards the indie spectrum, seems like the perfect label for this kind of infused, confused and very personal pop music. While Powers very clearly uses compositional ‘tropes’ to bring across the emotions he wants to express, his songwriting doesn’t quite fit in with what we would describe as a classic representation of pop music – and that’s what saves some of the songs like Free Me from joining the ranks of not so alternative pop ballads.
The whole album is anything but gentle, which makes it an even better representation of how melancholy can feel and most importantly, it makes it interesting. The Knower, for example, is very clear, violent and, in my opinion, one of the best songs on the album. It shakes up what the listener has come to expect after hearing Highway Patrol Stun Gun or Rotten Human. These songs are very airy and about as ethereal as Powers gets on this album.
Doll’s Estate, the piano interlude and X-Ray, the last song on the album, are the only two instrumentals and also the only two emotionally clear songs. They’re sad – It’s as easy as that.
Trevor Powers has achieved something rather uncommon in the general, contemporary pop music scene – he made a grown-up pop record that takes you on a long walk through an emotional wasteland with its exceptional songwriting.