Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter
Young the Giant is a curious band. Signed to the Fueled by Ramen alongside label-mates Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Paramore, Gym Class Heroes and the likes, the band knows a thing or two about writing pop hook-laden arena rock tunes, as their eponymous debut album proved. Despite being part of the epicentre of the emo-pop movement, the band has always had enough credibility with the indie rock crowd and garnered a certain amount of respect from the criticial mass media. 2010’s Young the Giant was praised for its incredibly catchy hooks and at times poetic lyricism. The band’s greatest asset has always been the vocal work of lead singer Sammer Gadhia and that really shone through on the first record. The band even has a A list fan in Morrissey, who isn’t easy to please.
The first thing that hit me upon my first listen of Mind Over Matter was the use of synths. There was small electronic elements to the band’s debut album, but nothing like what we see on Mind Over Matter. The use of synthesizers has been the popular way to go for a lot of artists of the last few years and Young the Giant is simply following that trend. There are times, like on the album’s lead single “Crystallized,” when the synths work wonderfully with the roaring guitars and drums – they play off each other and generally compliment each other. Such instances are unfortunately rare on the album though. More often like on the penultimate track “Waves” you get these trippy electronic tones that distract more than anything, and you lose the connection with the words, and you barely notice everything else going on around them.
Once you get used to the tweaks the band has made to their sound you begin to take notice of what lies beneath. This band still knows how to write a hook. The aforementioned “Crystallized” swells, building and building like a tornado and when it peaks it absolutely destroys everything in its path. The album peaks with “Firelight,” a stripped down ballad that tantalises us with sufficient ease. Gadhia’s vocal acts as the showpiece that it so frequently was on the band’s debut album. Here it steals the show, the gorgeous keyboards and acoustic guitar providing just a delicate back drop. It’s the first opportunity you get to really listen to the lyrics of the record, and they’re undoubtedly among the record’s most poetic.
Interwoven throughout the record are themes of dreams, reality and the conflict between the two and one would presume that’s where the title Mind Over Matter came from. These themes raise their head through the record but stand clearest on the evocative “Daydreamer” and “Eros.” There’s plenty of pun-laden lines littered throughout the record and Gadhia delivers them all so effortlessly with either a soothing falsetto or a sombre croon. It’s a vocal that takes some time to warm up but once it gets going it generally seeks to steal the show and does so more often than not. Gadhia has the ability to make a good song great and make a great song epic; this is never more true than on the melancholy “Cameras,” a cautionary tale about young lovers falling out of love but ultimately deciding to continue living in denial – it again toes the line of fantasy and reality. Gadhia delivers a poignant and emotional vocal.
What the album does seem to lack is the mammoth hooks that were a key feature of Young the Giant. There’s only a handful of big choruses, most notably “It’s About Time” and “Anagram” but there’s nothing that quite reaches the heights of the band’s debut. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a sophomore slump, but rather a case of a band struggling to truly pinpoint their own identity. They’ve got some good songwriting chops and an ear for a hook. They’re also sound lyrically and vocally, but it doesn’t all come together as well as it should. Mind Over Matter is not helped by the fact that it clocks in at well over 50 minutes.
Young the Giant is:
Sameer Gadhia – vocals, percussion
Jacob Tilley – guitar
Eric Cannata – guitar
Payam Doostzadeh – bass guitar
Francois Corntois – drums
1. Slow Dive
3. It’s About Time
5. Mind Over Matter
9. In My Home