ALBUM: Mind Over Matter
ARTIST: Young the Giant
After the commercial success of their self-titled debut (despite the harsh critique from Pitchfork), Young the Giant have returned for a much more low-key sophomore effort. With neither “It’s About Time” or “Crystalized” being as big as “Cough Syrup” or “My Body,” the slate was clean in a way I think the band might have wanted. Even though, out of uncertainty or lack of confidence in their own material, they front-load the most accessible tracks once again, this “clean slate” publicly allows frontman Sameer Gadhia to hone is chameleon-like talents as a vocalist. Whether it’s resonating lows or piercing highs, passionate whispers that tell stories or declamatory shouts of triumph, Gadhia masks himself from song to song and carries a variety of styles with him. The rest of the band, following suit, add as many nuanced plucks or twinkling keys in the empty space as the actual songwriting allows them too. Because, for all that the band does right in its catchiness and accessibility, there’s always a sense of familiarity throughout a majority of the record.
Young the Giant succeeds in a few different styles occasionally throughout the record. The gritty, hard-rock influenced “It’s About Time” is a fantastically energetic yet melodic tune, and, on the other end, “Teachers” begins as more of the same of their pop-rock aesthetic but builds into an exploding crescendo. However, it’s that time spent all too comfortably in the middle that eventually brings the album down. In fact, the main problem with Mind over Matter, and Young the Giant in general, is that tracks such as “Firelight” and “Camera” aren’t the focus. Meaning, the band does almost everything well or just good enough to be entertaining, catchy, and ultimately forgettable. They seem to be hesitant in developing their own presence. They go out of their way to showcase much more focused and resonating songwriting but place it on the back end of the album. Lyrics deprived of poignancy and filled with basic one-liners, great instrumentation that isn’t allowed to go anywhere unique, fantastic singing that’s ultimately inconsequential - all replaced for precise and deliberate stories, but a bit too late and not nearly enough times.
As much as Gadhia tries to instill interesting and memorable inflections to his already versatile singing, he seems to adhere to a set of unspoken rules and guidelines for creating user-friendly indie-rock - and this placidity that exists continuously hinders songs from making the crucial transition from enjoyable to cherished. When a hook like “when the beat of my drum meets the beat of you heart,” is delivered with such a straight face, the kitschy nature of a lot of the writing starts to become more prevalent. Thankfully, Young the Giant only get too comfortable in this groove a few times, and usually seem to be grasping for the next step up - even if they only graze it for now.
“I could be happier...”