BY WILL NORRIS
Ever since Young the Giant was thrust into the limelight at the end of 2010 with billboard-topping hit singles “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” fans have anticipated the release of the band’s sophomore record. However, fans of YTG may be shocked by the new sound these Irvine, Californian natives bring in the electronic-charged alternative rock album Mind over Matter, which was released on Jan. 21 by Fueled by Ramen Records (fun., Panic! At the Disco, Paramore).
The album’s first track, “Slow Drive,” begins with an ethereal, synthesized crescendo one would expect to end in a skyrocketing climax; instead, the band catches listeners off guard with the smooth, syncopation of an energetic guitar lick that fails to do the album justice.
The new record distances YTG from its organic roots in Southern California beach rock. The band’s single “It’s About Time” fits the Fueled by Ramen mold well. The rock and roll sound transforms into a sultry pre-chorus and dance rock bridge that sounds like any number of Fall Out Boy creations. An equivalently unappealing image is painted with “Mind over Matter,” which begins with a kitschy organ glissando reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers. Layers of synthetic strings overshadow all guitar riffs. The track is partially redeemed, however, by tasteful, distinguished bass line by Payam Doostzadeh and an inspirationally guttural vocal performance.
That being said, this album is definitely not a sophomore slump. It has a number of wonderful moments reminding listeners that this talented young band deserves the status they have received. Vocalist Sameer Gadhia, whose old-timey-crooner voice distinguishes the band, comes into his own on this record, experimenting with his range and creating memorable melodies. From the standout track — the fist-pumping liberation anthem “In My Home” — to an alluring acoustic ballad, Gadhia shows the band’s darker, spiritual side.
“Out of control… Is this the end of the road?” he asks in the harmoniously dynamic “Firelight.”
In the latter half of the record, the band dabbles in many genres, leaving some Cali-rock fans shaking in their sandals. The heavy use of 70’s style synthesizer in many tracks suggests a throwback to bands such as Electric Light Orchestra. One of the strongest songs on the record, “Eros,” is reminiscent of a group of friends playing various synth and percussion instruments in middle school jazz band. The tremendously energized, vibrant and uplifting “Crystallized” blends a jovial church organ sound and an unexpected hip-hop beat bridge. The album wraps up in a delightfully luscious modulated synth-driven clincher “Paralysis.”
YTG’s artistic freedom, melodic variety and risk-taking in this record is something to be applauded. Gadhia creates an incredibly expressive and exceedingly catchy vocal impression, and there are sporadic strokes of instrumental genius within Mind over Matter. However, the peculiar shift in genres creates a less-than-seamless product. The lack of uniformity and commitment conveys a muddled message to listeners, and the overproduction takes away from the true capacity this young band has. There is no doubt YTG will go far, and this release is just one step in their musical journey.