Young the Giant, an indie rock band formed in Irvine, Calif., released its second studio album, "Mind Over Matter," on Jan. 21 after a four-year absence from the music scene.
On first listen, the album disappoints. Coming from the playful romp that was their first album, "Mind Over Matter" comes across as intense, depressive and forgettable. Songs like "Cough Syrup" and "My Body" from their self-titled "Young the Giant" album were easily consumable, readily packaged for radio popularity. It is harder to determine which songs on "Mind Over Matter" stand out for single success.
It is not until the fourth or fifth track that you realize you aren't supposed to listen to the album on shuffle but from track one to the end. The album is a journey through a dream-like love story, with each part as vital as the next. The first track, "Slow Dive," is a trance-inducing 48 second intro that has no place on a sugary pop record and sets the tone for the album. The track crescendos into the airy first song, "Anagram."
The catchy, upbeat sixth track, "Daydreamer," could be separated out from the album as a story of a hopeless romantic. "You're a daydreamer / and it's the same thing over and over," lead singer Sameer Gadhia croons.
But the story is incomplete if you don't listen to the next track, "Firelight." Raw and stripped down with a focus on a hypnotizing guitar melody, "Firelight" tells a darker story of love and dreaming: "Falling in deep / Sleep / Out of control / Can you feel it? / Is this the end of the road? / Falling in deep / Lost in a dream."
The album explores all facets of one love: the romantic fantasies of new-found attraction and the delusional dreams and pining for a love lost. In contrast, the band's first album focused on the joys and passions of youthful love, with lyrics like "My body tells me no / but I won't quit."
If "Young the Giant" was the college freshman just learning how to party, "Mind Over Matter" is the mid-20s college graduate learning from the pains of reality.
Rather than downgrading the album, the lack of radio-ready singles shows the band's focus on the album as a whole and growth in their specific genre. Transitions between fast paced songs like "Daydreamer" and slow songs like "Firelight" that could easily be awkward and overly dramatic are seamless and feel natural. The band has mastered the ups and downs of the powerful journey a cohesive album can lend the listener.
"Mind Over Matter" vacillates between soothing vocals and harsh, powerful refrains evocative of the band's background with the metal recording label, Roadrunner Records.
This shift to an album-centric style reflects not only the band's musical maturation but also the recognition of a unique musical identity. Young the Giant has found their musical niche: indie rock with metal undertones. And now that the band has discovered their style that is distinctly and definitively not pop, they can focus on developing their specialized genre.
It took four years, but Young the Giant has found its voice.