"Mind Over Matter"
Young the Giant
“It’s the last time around,” sings Young the Giant’s lead vocalist, Sameer Gadhia, on the opening track of the band’s second album. The line serves as a fair prediction of just how much airtime the group’s sophomore slump, a 50-minute mixed-bag of awkwardness, cheesy-electro pop and overblown vocals, will get.
“Mind over Matter” is a large step backward for the Californian-quintet, which experienced mainstream success back in 2010 for the chest-thumping smash-hits “My Body” and “Cough Syrup.” Instead of using the four-year hiatus to build on its signature, arena-shaking guitar riffs, Young the Giant decided to mix things up for its return — switching labels and dusting off the old organ and keyboard to experiment with a new, ready-to-party digitized sound. While daring, the band’s effort falls short of producing anything memorable.
The first half of the album is dedicated to a slew of pop-trash, with lead singles “It’s About Time” and “Crystallized” featured back to back in a slow moving, never-ending string of synth-based power ballads. Gadhia’s soulful vocals, the band’s strongest weapon, are lost in a wash of skittering percussion and trembling mid-range guitar licks and hooks that do little to distinguish or introduce a new track — twisting and churning, but never fully developing.
The album’s midpoint, “Firelight,” provides some relief from the overwrought and high-energy synthesizers that dominate and skew the band’s eccentric sound. An acoustic affair, “Firelight” offers up minimalist rhythms and an eloquently peaking blend of melodic guitar and vocal harmonies. But the track is only a fleeting moment of beauty as the album progresses to “Camera,” a keyboard-driven, hyper-pop selection where Gadhia sputters out the cringe-worthy lyrics, “I used to know what made you wet/ Now I’m searching for it.”
Call “Mind over Matter” a creative leap for Young the Giant, but the album is uninspiring — moments of ambition and experimentation notwithstanding. The band’s new and alternative sound offers up some late-night grooves and danceable beats, but ultimately, the album is unexceptional and disappointing for fans searching for the band’s hard indie-edge.