Think about where some of the most dynamic and groundbreaking bands of the last few decades were founded. NYC and LA are usually the first choices brought up. Now brace yourself for this, though: The Adolescents, The Offspring and Social Distortion, the kings of hardcore/skate punk, all hail from Orange County. A few years back, a new group joined the ranks: the indie rock band Young the Giant (originally The Jakes) was founded right here, in our very own Irvine, California.
The five-man band released their self-titled full-length album through Roadrunner Records in 2010. After much critical acclaim for songs like “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” the boys made their way through the late-night TV circuit and performed at music festivals all over America. Rumors of a second album were confirmed in May of last year, and now, less than a week after its release, “Mind Over Matter” holds the #5 spot on the iTunes top 10.
A long-time listener can hear the difference that three years of rising fame have made for the band. The new album has a significantly higher production level than their self-titled. “Mind Over Matter” holds a heavier sound, especially on the first single, “It’s About Time,” a Radiohead-esque masterpiece that showcases lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s raspy falsetto.
Along with this newer sound, there still exists a trace of the YTG of yore on more upbeat tracks like “Crystallized” and “Daydreamer.” These songs maintain the same bouncy indie pop vibe that the band exuded on their first album, but have a more complex, mature foundation.
The band hits a stride on some of the slower, more ruminating tracks, like “Camera” and “Firelight.” In a recent interview, Gadhia said of the album, “The first half of the record is very high intensity, even more intense than even we initially anticipated, and the second, there’s a little more time to breathe.” This is noticeable even on a first listen, with a distinct switch in tone about halfway through the album.
RECOMMENDED: Young the Giant packs quite a punch with the rock-influenced “Mind Over Matter.”
If there’s one criticism I have of this album, it’s the over-production of some of the tracks. What I originally found so compelling about Young the Giant’s music was the open honesty of it, a sincerity that is somewhat masked in this new release. With their last album, the band released a series of “In the Open” acoustic videos for each of the singles; I can’t imagine this particularly working with any of the singles on “Mind Over Matter.” The band is growing and changing, understandably, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of the gorgeous naiveté of pre-fame Young the Giant.
The album is a good one, dodging the dreaded sophomore slump and showing a huge progression in the voice and intended message of the band. The novelty of having such a local band (drummer François Comtois is a UCI alum) hit it big is not going to get old anytime soon. I only hope that the buzz that comes off of this release fuels Young the Giant to return to their roots, and to maybe calm down on the synth a bit.