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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Young the Giant delivers new sound

Published: January 31, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Young the Giant, an indie rock band from Irvine, California, gained popularity in 2011 when their first self-titled album hit stores and songs including “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” topped the charts. This album maintained a soft and infectious indie-pop style that wasn’t too crazy or too tame—it felt just right, like a favorite pair of jeans. Rather than trying to perfect and transform that sound into something even better and more nuanced, Young the Giant decided to radically change their sound in their new album “Mind Over Matter,” which was released on Jan. 21.

If Young the Giant’s first album was Taylor Swift, “Mind Over Matter” would be Metallica—the distinction between the sounds of the two albums is that jarring. While some songs contain traces of the sweet rhythmic melodies that are reminiscent of the first album, they fit much more into the genre of rock and are not as pleasing to the ear. One such song, one of the best on the album in fact, is called “Anagram,” and is a prime example of how Young the Giant’s trademark delicate guitar can juxtapose with a more powerful hardcore sound to create something electrifying. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the majority of the songs on this album.

Perhaps the song on this album that stays truest to Young the Giant’s journey as a band is “Slow Drive,” which is a 48-second instrumental piece. This song highlights the transformation of a quiet and pensive piece that crescendos into a powerful and loud ballad, which essentially represents their rapid rise to fame as well as the drastic alteration of their style.

The featured song on “Mind Over Matter” that has been their vehicle of advertisement, “It’s About Time,” does not even sound like Young the Giant, but eerily similar to Muse. The music on this album is dominated by synth, some strings and several electronic flourishes, which do not capture the essence of Young the Giant. But perhaps that is the point: Young the Giant has undergone a musical metamorphosis from a familiar indie-pop band to a different-sounding group that seems far removed from the alternative genre.

The music, however, feels forced and artificial instead of the straightforward, honest and raw musical talent that governed the last album. This album cries desperation—like the band needed a makeover in order to escape becoming too mainstream or safe. While there are a few foreseeable hits on “Mind Over Matter,” this album ultimately feels like a makeover that is too foreign of a sound to be enjoyed by most fans.

Though this album can be viewed as a letdown in several regards, there are some positive elements. While there are a number of songs filled with blaring guitar, a sound that gets old after a while, the band has indeed developed some of the beachy vibes that were evident on the first album in songs like “Crystallized,” “Waves” and the bridge of “It’s About Time”—a feature of the album that will surely win back some listeners.

Finally, this album served as a tremendous source of growth and maturity on Young the Giant’s part, though it might not have been the maturity fans expected to hear. Frontman Sameer Gadhia, who enchants listeners with his versatile and evocative voice, told Rolling Stone Magazine that a main influence of the album was actually the famous novel “Anna Karenina,” which he read during the production of the album. He noted that “Mind Over Matter” has benefited from a literary influence, and he attempted to tell stories through his songs almost from a camera’s perspective. He also acknowledges that this album possesses an aggressive dimension to it, which stemmed from the band’s collective realization that “we could do what we wanted to do and be honest about it.”

While this new sound from Young the Giant was not expected by fans, it will surely serve as a springboard for their development as a band in the long run.