Young The Giant | Mind Over Matter | Rating: 8.8/11 | Reviewed by: Tim Risser |
First off, let’s buck the antiquated system that virtually every music critic abides, which is: let’s connect the dots to every nuance of a band’s debut with their sophomore release, comparing them endlessly and without apology. I’m simply not doing it. Young the Giant’s release Mind Over Matter gets a clean slate.
Don’t misunderstand, their eponymous debut was (and is) a gem that spins and weaves a somewhat relaxed California atmospheric pulse, while not drifting into party time; yet your body and your mind will enjoy the environment as it maneuvers you along. Young the Giant’s Mind Over Matter makes a statement that doesn’t require expectations – music as a stand-alone entity. It’s subtle and organic and deserves a fresh look within the indie genre they currently hold court in, despite the current reign of Arcade Fire.
YTG’s indie rock sound, the subtle variation on dynamics, lyrical sensibilities and resonating musical hooks are displayed on Mind Over Matter. The unique vocals of Sameer Gadhia are splendid, and the band concedes mature songwriting exposed through glimmers of adept musicianship, relying on influences both present and past. “Slow Dive” is a 46 second synth drone ascending into the plucky guitar intro of “Anagram” and Sameer offering the lyric: “People in the middle / life’s a riddle / not a game of dice,” foot tapping and groove intact, if Young the Giant are the offspring of anybody, they owe more to a psychedelic feel-good vibe which rock had in the late ’60s. The title track guitars gently caress the background with a pair of contrasting keyboards and soaring vocals almost in competition. Then lyrics “I’m a young man after all… cause I’m a young man built to fall” piece it all together. Relinquishing control, making sense of the world in a way that only melody and honest lyrics can.
The California rays, the interminable daylight shimmer, allowing only a hint of their roots and just enough â€˜indie’ to make NME and Rolling Stone get moist. “Crystallized” is danceable, but you never get the sense that it’s a byproduct of any genre: “When the beat of my drum / meets the beat of your heartâ€¦ this is where I come from / This is where I belong” they beckon. Follow them or don’t, it’s their beat that propels them, whether you choose to ride along.
The album is at its bittersweet best when YTG scale down the volume and strip a lot of the instant hook and flow of the more rock dominant tracks. Distancing themselves from anything that could be skewed as a ballad, injecting only enough folk to remind you that bombastic has its share of antonyms: subtle, discreet, restrainedâ€”it’s more than the sum of its parts, the progressions that lift “Firelight” are all you need, or maybe the warmth of a beach-side fire where the music transports you, if only temporarily.
There’s a lot to enjoy with a record like Mind Over Matter, produced to sound a little better than what the garage yields and without any shirt sleeve worn influences – Young the Giant provides optimism and sincerity, inhabiting a genre where the listener belongs and the music thrives.