On their second full-length album, Young the Giant really tries to branch out. While their self-titled debut felt like it was carving out a certain sound, pace and guitar feel, Mind Over Matter attempts to shatter this mold. It kind of wants to be everything at once. And more often than not, it succeeds.
“Slow Dive” is less a track than it is a mood-setting intro in the vein of the beginning of U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name”. But instead of getting bigger on the same chord, it abruptly stops and jumps into the plucky guitar and buoyant rhythm of “Anagram”. Starting with an odd time signature it launches into what almost sounds like an upbeat Smiths song, posing the thought “Life’s a riddle, not a game of dice”. It’s a strong way to start this album. “It’s About Time”, the first single, follows next and kicks the band into overdrive. My first reaction to the single was that the band has decided to go full-on hard rock. The song is primarily about motivation, possibly fairly political, about the world being one big illusion. I must say YTG does hard rock quite well! It’s quite a change from “Cough Syrup”. In fact I think I hear a touch of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” in there.
Next up the band tries on a new set of clothes with “Crystallized”. The drifty melody, washes of synth peppered with the right amount of staccato guitar bits and the laid back beat all fit just right for a love song about the gravitation of two souls floating through this existence. Definitely one of my faves in this set. Then following we have the title track “Mind Over Matter”. Oddly these are the two songs most like each other and are placed together. On first listen I wasn’t even sure if this wasn’t just part two of the previous track. On second listen, these two songs are different. “Mind Over Matter” is also a love song about overcoming obstacles such as distance for love. The refrain of “I’m a young man after all/built to fall!” was one of the first to get stuck in my head after hearing this album. Quite a powerful vocal delivery from Sameer Gadhia, and the strings really push this one into a beautiful place.
“Daydreamer” comes surging back into harder rock territory, but also with strings. Either Sameer gives a much lower-toned vocal delivery on this one, or another member starts the song off. The liner notes don’t say. Another powerful track in a row so far. Rounding out the first half is “Firelight”, a gentle acoustic ballad that showcases the power in the softer side of Sameer’s voice. Excellent touches on the guitar here from Jacob Tilley. Quite a moving song about someone’s final moments.
The second half starts back up with a lone organ and the quieted vocals of “Camera”, likening a dying relationship to being on holiday with a broken camera. As it gets louder, the echoey guitar effects in this remind me of The Cure just a bit. I must give the band credit for being able to absorb and recombine their influences in new ways. Next up is “In My Home”, a song that jumps into hard rocker mode. This one is about the adventure of the road ahead that makes you shout “I was born for this!”.
“Eros” is definitely a standout latter track about a volatile relationship. Great line in this one, “Nobody waits, nobody calls anymore, talking is dead”. The guitar work and funk beat puts me in mind of the first Virgins album, VHS or Beta’s first album, definitely some new wave feel in there. They have a real groove going on in this one. This is something they should try more often. The next track “Teachers” seems to be about comparing who you expected to become as opposed to who you are now. A much harder and straightforward driving rock song with Sameer going into a much louder range than normal on the chorus.
The last two tracks are definitely tied together in theme. “Waves” seems to be about choosing to actually experience and feel reality as opposed to numbing it away. “Paralysis” seems to be about not letting oneself become trapped behind a veil and choosing to force yourself to your feet and live. In a way this theme of paralysis runs through the songs. The idea that we must overcome the obstacles that we create ourselves. The guitar line of the beginning of “Waves” seems to tie it back to “Anagram”, although this song has a bit gentler vocal delivery but the same punchy feel to the overall music. “Paralysis” however, adds some new percussive elements and a bit of 80s synth bass line at its core. The rolling drum line from François Comtois is a nice new element, along with some cowbell type effects similar to Talking Heads or LCD Soundsystem at their most percussive. The song’s vibe leaves things wide open for the sound of Young The Giant’s future.
This album is definitely a winner and so far is my most listened-to album of 2014. There’s a passion in YTG’s sound that always keeps it fresh. They aren’t necessarily trying to prove anything. They are just enjoying making music as a band and it shows. Two big thumbs up.
Now if someone would just explain the cover to me.
Pick up your own copy of Mind Over Matter HERE:
Check out the videos from the album so far:
“It’s About Time”:
“Mind Over Matter”:
“Firelight” (In The Open):