Mind Over Matter: Young The Giant's Incendiary Sophomore Effort
After their highly acclaimed self-titled debut record in 2010, I immediately knew Young the Giant (YTG) had massive potential. I've waited 3+ years to listen to this masterpiece, and these California indie-rockers exceeded my expectations, as always. Bands often have difficulty writing their sophomore albums, especially after landing smash hits such as, "Cough Syrup" and "My Body," in their case. YTG evidently matured as a band, realizing that they didn't necessarily need to produce 12 additional "Cough Syrups" to produce a full bound sound that flows very smoothly throughout each track. So, shall we? Throughout Mind Over Matter, YTG's dynamics as a band are very controlled and their songs were clearly strategically placed. Producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, M83, Tegan and Sara) beautifully formed YTG's sound into perfect unity. With multiple layered guitar parts, strong synthesizers, an outstanding percussion section, consistent bass grooves (reminiscent of Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers), and lead singer Sameer's gorgeous yet strong and raunchy voice to fuel it all together - this album is certainly one to rave about.
As a listener, I'm passed the point of being pleased with songs from pure melody alone; true bands have that much more substance when the lead singer is evidently passionate about what he/she is singing, as their lyrics often have significant meaning. Sameer is a perfect example of this, as he admitted to Rolling Stone that his lyrics were literary. He explained how he had been reading Anna Karenina and Thomas Pynchon, while philosophizing on both contemporary and old stuff. "I enjoy just being able to tell an objective story, almost through a camera lens. But, then I didn't want to get too stuck in that because being a lyricist there's something very stylized about lyrics, it's more like poetry," Sameer told Rolling Stone.
With this being said, the lyrical highlights I took from the album were not coincidentally from my favorite tracks. In the album’s title track "Mind Over Matter," Sameer pontificates,
"When the seasons change,
will you stand by me,
because I'm a young man built to fall,
mind over matter."
Sameer also croons on one of the album’s singles, "Crystallized," showing his soft side:
"When the beat of my drum,
meets the beat of your heart,
you know I couldn't love any other,
this is where I come from,
this is where I belong."
The main single, "It's About Time," relates to one of my favorite movies that somehow made me extremely paranoid in a great way (if possible):
"Close the front door,
I don't want to go,
Like I'm on the 'Truman Show!"'
Imagine if your life was inside a bubble?
Sameer's moving lyrics contribute to his soft side, and furthermore how YTG structured each song they wrote and strategically placed where songs should be, so that the album flows smoothly. Two tracks on the album, “Firelight” and “Camera,” don't represent the common themes I previously discussed where YTG uses acoustic guitars that really showcase Sameer's incredible voice control. Although these two songs don't represent the common themes of the album and definitely were the weaker tracks, they help prove how YTG doesn't truly have a monotonous sound, showcasing their musical diversity. The album then jumps back to its full heavy indie-rock euphoria following those two tracks with, "In My Home," where Sameer pontificates yet again: "We are not lost // we are always searching." Truth.
YTG helped kick 2014 off to an amazing start in the indie-rock world, and I can't wait to see them this summer (again). The dynamics of the album were really unbelievable and the band truly honed in on their sound in a very positive way. The second half of the album was reminiscent of Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, especially similar to their 2011 album "Angles," as both bands incorporate the coolest elements that came from the 80s (if possible). These two groups are great examples of how indie-rock bands can produce dance and head-rocking anthems. With raunchy layered guitars, highlighted harmonies with reverb, bass grooves that follow and exceed strong vocal lines -- this is definitely worth the listen if you haven't vibed with anything I just preached on! YTG is already booked for Firefly in Dover, DE this summer, and stay tuned into CV for their tour dates!
Images from rollingstone.com and beatroute.ca