Review Summary: It's about time.
When Young the Giant burst onto the alternative rock scene back in 2010, I originally shrugged them off as just another generic band who found their mainstream breakthrough as a result of sheer luck. It took some time for singles like "Cough Syrup" to grow on me, but after listening to their eponymous debut more and more, I soon realized just how talented the band was. Sameer Gadhia's striking vocals were full of both aggressive and passionate energy, while Jacob Tilley's guitarwork was full of crunching riffs. The fact that Young the Giant are able to spread their energetic brand of indie rock throughout a whole twelve-track album instantly puts them ahead of contemporaries like Imagine Dragons, who could only muster an EPs worth of decent material. Granted, Young the Giant
did falter a bit towards its latter half, but it was only for a few tracks, and the album did
regain its stride with the excellent closer "Guns Out". Mind Over Matter
was one of January's highly anticipated releases for me, mainly because I wanted to see if the Californian five-piece would be able to continue making quality music.
Luckily, Young the Giant are able to escape a dreaded sophomore slump, as Mind Over Matter
manages to be just as good as their self-titled freshman effort, if not better. Once again, the band piles its strongest tracks at the album's beginning - the one-two punch of "Anagram" and "It's About Time" draws comparisons to the combo of "Apartment" and "My Body" from their debut. In the battle of the lead singles, “It’s About Time” comes off as the inferior mainly because its hook isn’t as immediate as “My Body” (hell, even Volbeat’s cover of “My Body” was more attention-grabbing). Its aggression and gritty vocals, however, make up for its weak chorus. When Gahdia belts out, “Everybody has, needs, wants a cold gun!” towards the end of the bridge, it feels so epic and climatic, something mediocre bands like The Airborne Toxic Event wish they could do.
The album’s clear highlight comes at “Crystallized”, the band’s best song yet. Gadhia’s vocals are filled with emotion, and lyrics like “Is the human race sincere?” have meanings that are left up to the listeners to decide. The song is based around an addictive keyboard riff that is by far the most infectious part of the track. “Crystallized” is by far the catchiest song that Young the Giant have released so far in their short career, and it’s songs like these that show off the band’s talent. “Mind Over Matter” also has Gadhia at a vocal highpoint – as he cries out, “I’m a young man built to fall”, I sense themes of insecurity and stress in the band’s lyrical matter. It’s clear that the young quintet are evolving, lyrically and musically.
However, by placing the album’s best tracks in its front half, Mind Over Matter
suffers from the same flaw as its predecessor. The record’s rear portion is bloated with mediocre filler tracks, making its nearly hour-long runtime seem like a chore. The placement of “Firelight” and “Camera” back-to-back baffles me: both tracks are five minutes long (the lengthiest songs on the record), drag on slowly and sound pretty similar musically. “Eros”, “Teachers” and “Paralysis” are some of the highlights from the album’s bloated second half, but none of them come close to the greatness achieved by “Crystallized” or “Daydreamer”.
Mind Over Matter
really is an improvement over their self-titled debut. Songs like “It’s About Time” and “Anagram” rival “My Body” and “I Got” for the title of best Young the Giant song. But when it comes to cutting down on filler tracks, improvement is minute, and if the band had just trimmed down the number of songs on the album, Mind Over Matter
’s second half wouldn’t seem like such a chore to listen to. Even though the record does show some blemishes, it would be blasphemy not to credit them for making amazing songs like “Crystallized” and “Mind Over Matter”. Young the Giant are still a young band, and hopefully they can fix some of their flaws in the long run.