Album Review: “Mind Over Matter” by Young the Giant

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The SoCal quintet, facing writer’s block, finds some success by adopting a heavier and more vulnerable sound for their second LP

Release Date Jan 21

Rating 3/5

No matter how good a band might be, the second album is known to be infamously difficult to produce. Young the Giant released their eponymous debut album in 2010. With radio-friendly tracks like “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” they performed at festivals, late-night shows and the VMAs. As if that wasn’t enough for the young band, The Smiths’ grouchy front man Morrissey (of all people!) praised the record in a blog post, making confessions about “break[ing] down with happiness” due to its “perfect tone.” When returning to the studio to produce “Mind Over Matter,” the band found themselves under pressure.

The mini-documentary about the making of “Mind Over Matter” chronicles the struggles the band faced when writing and recording the album. Plagued by writer’s block, vocalist Sameer Gadhia worked hard to improve his skills as a lyricist. On “Mind Over Matter,” Gadhia reveals an introspective nature, showing vulnerability in lines such as “Will you stand by me? / ‘Cause I’m a young man built to fall” from the title track.

What sets Young the Giant apart from other bands has much to do with the strength in Gadhia’s unwavering vocals. He harmonizes with the melodic arpeggios of Eric Cannata and Jacob Tilley’s guitars, which, in turn, drift back and forth between each other, completely in sync. Their smooth and cohesive sound is a result of having played music together since they were teenagers.

The album is top-heavy, with the first half producing the stuck-in-your-head-all-day melodies. It is full of energy — the guitar sound is heavy, the amps are turned up and the cymbals crash along with rhythmic drumming. The spacey “Crystallized” has a wonderfully catchy, melodic hook that demands attention, eager to please. The gentle ballad “Firelight” marks the midway point. The latter half of “Mind Over Matter,” however, seems neglected. Lacking the finesse of the previous songs, it feels like the album drags on and on.

With “Mind Over Matter,” Young the Giant has maintained the same vocally-driven, melodic guitar sound, although the songs feel more fine-tuned. The extra effort put into the lyrics shows somewhat, but it still feels like Gadhia is holding back slightly. Although the new album is heavier than its predecessor, Young the Giant will have to continuously step out of their comfort zone in order to develop their sound and improve their songwriting.