Review Summary: “Mind Over Matter” is still the commercial Young the Giant that we heard in 2010-2011 with a tad more spirit and ambition.
Young the Giant released their eponymous debut album in 2010 with a few hit singles (Cough Syrup, Apartment, My Body), the sequential following of a bohemian teenage fan-base, and the love of every alternative radio station that were smart enough to know that this band was the kind of corporate musical appeal their listeners wanted to hear. But by the end of the day, Young the Giant was, in layman’s terms, just another “generic” indie-rock band.
Understand that when I mean generic I don’t necessarily mean “bad”. But I don’t necessarily mean “good" either. Also understand that I am fully aware that in the end of the day music (and just art, in general) is subjective and is in no way really ever truly perfect (5/5) or complete *** (0/5). Whenever someone critiques a piece of work know that their opinion isn't more important than yours and vice-versa. It is up to each respective individual to decipher what they distinguish from good and bad. After all, everyone has different tastes. However, when critiquing a piece of work, you must put quality into perspective more than anything else; and when I listen to bands like Young the Giant, Capital Cities, Bastille, Grouplove, The Lumineers, The Neighbourhood (for the most part), Imagine Dragons, and fun. (specifically “Some Nights” fun. more than anything else in the world) there is no distinct quality that I can pinpoint from them because I honestly can never tell the difference between them. That, or I believe that they are all subconsciously copying each other’s music to produce that homogeneous “cookie-cutter” indie-rock sound that big business record companies are beginning to ride the bandwagon on more and more, everyday.
But can you blame them? It’s a sound in the music industry that is gaining more notoriety and momentum as each day passes. And as today’s generation of teens and young adults alike are abandoning the inhibitions of the “mainstream” and are beginning to dabble into all that is vintage, coffee, cats, and, for the lack of a better word, hip - so are, too, the record companies. So it’s no surprise that today’s indie rock - inspired by the sounds of late 70’s/early 80’s New Wave - has become infinitely more appealing than it ever was before.
So let’s take everything I said above and put that into the perspective of Young the Giant. Have they matured since their debut? Have they left that average, un-provoking, marginalized sound?
Well.. For the most part, unfortunately, no.
But there are some signs of improvement.
The groups sophomore LP, “Mind Over Matter”, is a 13-track album that seldom lends itself to a direction that could be worth applauding if it weren't for the interruptions of the same-old played out musical ideas that the indie music world has become bombarded with.
Reminiscent of the opening two tracks of Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto”, Young the Giant did their best to re-introduce themselves this time around in a bright new light through the qualities portrayed in the yearning Slow Dive (not the band) and the whimsically ambitious Anagram. Songs like Mind Over Matter, Teachers, and Waves were able to match the same level of ferocity, attention to detail, instrumentation, dynamics, and lyrical phrasing (Sameer Gadhia is pretty ***ing fantastic when it comes to lyrical phrasing) that the two opening tracks displayed. But I believe the most impressive feature of theirs on this album isn't the one that made me want to get up and jam the most, but rather, the most patient song of theirs thus yet - Firelight. It was whimsical enough to keep me on my toes, yet progressive enough to keep me pleased throughout. The musical balance and direction I heard in this song is a sound that I had never heard from Young the Giant before - and gosh darn it, how I hope to hear this from them, more. Such beauty. Much care. Wow.
But these new, fresh, and interesting musical qualities of theirs are ultimately made null as soon as the rest of the album is played. Every song that wasn't mentioned above is the same un-evocative, vague, blank, and devoid of any raw or distinct indie-rock sound of theirs that they seem to be latching onto that is ultimately plaguing and debunking them. The only exception is It’s About Time - not because I thought it was an excellent song (it wasn't), but because it was a grungy “black sheep” in a heard of generic indie “white sheep” that threw the whole album off with its inconsistency to the rest of the album.
Overall, “Mind Over Matter” is still the commercial Young the Giant that we heard in 2010-2011 with a tad more spirit and ambition. But, considering what the “commercial” Young the Giant was - I don’t see any reason why this album (or this band, in general) deserves any glory, at all. Their bad habits riddle what could be their greatness.