Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 11

Mind Over Matter by Young the Giant

Here's your alternative rock fix.

Young the Giant is an indie rock (what does that even mean?) group out of Irvine, CA that's been making waves on the alternative rock scene lately. They consist of Sameer Gadhia singing, Jacob Tilley on guitar, Eric Cannata on guitar and backup vox, Payam Doostzadeh on bass, and François Comtois on skins. You may remember their single "Cough Syrup" from their self-titled debut album. Love that song. Mind Over Matter was released late last year and even though most groups have a sophomore slump when it comes to their second release, luckily YtG dodged it here.

After a stringy intro, the album's first track "Anagram" is up. Don't let the syncopated muted guitar fool you, this group is no stranger to 2's and 4's. It's really refreshing to hear a group that has made their stake in the alt scene mix up the textures and rhythms in their tunes. This one is a great example. 

Without making your mind up for you regarding the meaning behind the lyrics of this one, YtG's songwriting is some of my favorite. Period. If you remember the opening lines from "Cough Syrup:"

Life's too short to even care at all oh
I'm losing my mind losing my mind losing control
These fishes in the sea they're staring at me 
A wet world aches for a beat of a drum

then you're already familiar with the creative stylings of this group. "Anagram" among others is no exception.

Next up is this album's first single "It's About Time." This one reminds me of some of 30 Seconds to Mars more recent stuff. Less screaming, more nuance in between the power chords. That's all I have to say about that (read in a Gump accent).

"Crystallized" is the first track from the album that addresses that comes close to a love song. Once again lots of muted guitar and plenty of handclaps and displaced drum grooves. Very refreshing. Not to mention the songwriting is pretty solid. Floating through space until you find the one who's heartbeat matches yours never sounded so good.

'Bout time we heard Sameer Gadhia move a little air. The album's title track is next and this one took a few extra listens, but has actually become one of my favorites. The retro piano gliss into some distorted synth lines may turn you off. Don't let 'em. Instead let the strings and half-time groove pull you in. This anthem of independence and solitude will probably end up on Sportscenter commercial at some point.

The next track is only saved by the chorus. From an instrumental standpoint "Daydreamer," sounds like it belongs on a Killers release: uptempo surf-rock with some extra reverb and rhythm guitar. Not a huge fan of this one.

To me the next two tunes are sort of a tandem pair. "Firelight" and "Camera" have a very similar vibe and share a few ideas as far as content goes. For "Firelight" the tempo is back down and Sameer is basically whispering in your ear. As far as ballad-y rock tunes go, I dig this one. Very serene and personal. Makes you think! "Camera" continues the somber vibe with a little extra in the way of drums and guitar. Since I didn't write 'em, I can't definitely say what either song is about, but both speak to the struggles of being a 20-something. If you check out this album, try to listen to these two as a single entity.

"In My Home" is up next. This one will get you pumped about doing, well, just about anything. At first it sounds like Sameer is describing the band's arrival as a group. However, the further I got, the more I thought that instead this one's more about not giving up when it comes to your dreams. Cliché? Yes. Still good. Also, a great contrast to the two preceding songs.

The quintessential modern electro-pop from Mind Over Matter is definitely "Eros." I think the writing is pretty solid, but I'm not a fan of this joint's sound as a whole. I know that electro-pop is largely dependent on relentless, driving backbeats and pop chords, but this one is just fatiguing.

Speaking of fatiguing, "Teachers" is no exception. This is another uptempo one that has plenty of emotion, but it's pretty much 0-100 is the first few seconds and it never lets up. The message here is pretty introspective though, especially to a listener like me who has grown up in the city and has to make a lot of decisions between things like work, alcohol, the opposite sex for meaningful relationships.

"Waves" is an interesting one. The penultimate song from this album is obviously alluding to drug use as a way to escape hardship and pain. The way it's presented is pretty interesting though. The never-changing background arpeggios are well, waves. The rest of the instruments contribute to this idea without really contributing anything. Simple yet impressive.

Rounding out YtG's newest disc is "Paralysis." Coincidence that this one follows "Waves?" I think not. Although the repeated ending redeems the slow start this one takes a second to enjoy - at least for me. Polished pop-rock full of, once again, dark themes remind you of why the album title was chosen.

In conclusion, Mind Over Matter is an interesting release from Young the Giant. It's definitely good, but a lot of that has more to do with small nuances in the songwriting, instrumentation, and juxtaposition more than just the overall sound. Even though a lot of this album's themes are dark in nature, I suppose that's a lot of what being a 20-something is about: sifting through temptation and self-realization? If you're a fan of groups like Neon Trees, Atlas Genius, 30 Seconds to Mars, or Maroon 5, I think YtG will offer a slightly different take on the adult indie sound without taking you away from your comfort zone. Check it out!

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