Review Summary: Aside from a few minor growing pains, “Mind Over Matter” proves Young the Giant is maturing into a band with more to show than just a few catchy singles.
A word of warning to older Young the Giant fans: this is not part two of the band’s self-titled debut album. There isn’t a song on “Mind Over Matter” that comes even close to the same level of accessibility and radio friendliness of “My Body” and “Cough Syrup” from their last effort. Without even listening to the album, a quick look at how the singles fared could tell you that. The first single, “It’s About Time,” peaked at number seven on the U.S. Alternative chart and didn’t show up at all on the primary U.S. chart. “Crystallized,” the second single, hasn’t appeared at all -- on any chart.
Despite this, “Mind Over Matter” is far better than Young the Giant’s debut and sees the band adding depth to their already successful alternative rock sound. Gone are the insanely catchy choruses, predictable song progressions, and immediateness prevalent on “Young the Giant.” In their place are off-kilter guitar riffs, varied and strong musical structures, and an introspective tone.
That’s not to say that nothing carried over from the band’s first showing. The first half of “Mind Over Matter” bears several similarities to their older sound, and old fans will likely be initially drawn there. The rapid pacing of “Anagram,” the aggressive guitar work on “It’s About Time,” and the catchy drumbeat of “Daydreamer” will likely be the favorites of casual listeners and those who yearn for the Young the Giant of the past. But what really makes Young the Giant stand out from the plethora of alternative and indie rock bands on the scene today is the second half of “Mind Over Matter” that begins with the delicate seventh track, “Firelight.”
“Tell my friends I’ve gone, it’s true,” croons lead singer Sameer Gadhia over a fragile guitar riff that is gradually complemented by the soft pitter-patter of drums and cymbals.
And while it’s true that Young the Giant of old is gone, they certainly aren’t lost, as Gadhia asserts on “In My Home,” which mixes their old and new sounds to a wonderful effect. An uplifting blend of melodic guitar, drums, and vocal harmonies undercuts Gadhia as he forcefully sings, “We are not lost/ We’re just searching / We are always, always searching for / Home,” and then suddenly it all drops out for a single guitar line before picking back up for the song’s triumphant finale. This is then followed up by “Eros,” a slow-burning indie rock song enhanced with synths for the first half before closing out the song with a minute and a half poignant guitar solo that Minus the Bear would be proud of. Then, before the listener can process the 180 that just occurred, they are hit with “Teachers,” another powerful synth-laden and varied song that stretches Gadhia’s vocals to heights unseen.
However, as with any coming of age, Young the Giant’s sophomore release suffers from some growing pains. “Crystallized” sounds like it was manufactured for radio play and feels forced, while the last track on the album, “Paralysis,” is fairly straightforward, boring, and doesn’t really add anything to the album except for a longer runtime. It’s a pity such a good album ended with whimper instead of a bang.
Still, kudos to Young the Giant for putting out an album this mature and original instead of just following the formula that put them on the map in the first place. Look for big things from this band in the years to come.