Sound — 8
Surfacing at the beginning of the decade, Young The Giant started turning heads early on. The indie rock group has toured with well-renowned bands, such as Minus The Bear and Incubus, and has also performed at brand-name festivals, such as Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza and SXSW. Their self-titled debut album received critical acclaim from the likes of MTV, Amazon.com, Billboard, and even got rock icon Morrissey's stamp of approval. Three years after their debut album's release, Young The Giant gave everyone a taste of their new album, "Mind Over Matter," with the first single, "It's About Time," and then another taste with their second single, "Crystallized." "Mind Over Matter" was finally released on January 21, 2014, and it stays the course that Young The Giant was traveling with their first album.
"Slow Dive" is the soft, all-synth intro of the album that slowly crescendoes, which then abruptly switches to the plucky intro melody of "Anagram." The bass-line and drum-line stays pretty simple throughout the song, while frontman Sameer Gadhia's vocals switch between his standard vocal range and soft falsetto. There's also a nice string melody that makes appearances at the second verse, pre-bridge and final chorus, which then goes into a dreamy, melodic interlude at the outro, which soon morphs into detuned noise right before it goes into the next song, "It's About Time." This song has more conventional, heavy sounding guitars and strong bass that all follow a simple riff, but once it reaches the pre-chorus, the lead guitar comes in with a tricky, clean-sounding riff. The song gets more complex as it progresses, with an energetic hi-hat roll drum-line, a more independent bass-line, and the guitar in the right chamber playing a secondary line to the lead guitar's solos before the bridge and at the final chorus. "Crystallized" is an easy-going song with a warm leading synth melody and some dreamy, light lead guitar strums in the intro. The bass-line carries the song through the verses and plays a complementary role to the vocals and main synth-line that synchronize with each other.
The next track, "Mind Over Matter," keeps things in the easy-going gear, with another warm and basic synth-line, a sweet violin melody, fuzzy bass and an absence of guitars at the intro. As the verse starts, Gadhia's voice is airy and light, but slowly builds more body until it strongly enters the chorus, where the guitars come in as well. The violins come in even stronger at the final chorus of the song, and while they don't overpower the other instruments, they are indeed the MVP of the song. "Day Dreamer" kicks things into a fast gear with an energetic drum-line and bass-line, while the guitars play supporting roles. Gadhia's voice starts off in a lower octave, but starts reaching for higher notes in the chorus. While the bass-line is the most active and interesting throughout the song, the guitar in the right chamber does some fine tremolo picking in the post-chorus and bridge. After the energy of "Day Dreamer," the album shifts down to a slow-jam tempo with "Firelight." The tranquil guitar lines and voice of Gadhia (as well as some good backing vocals in the choruses) are the only key players in this song - with any bass and percussion only coming in for the bridge - so this song might make you susceptible to drifting off to sleep, for better or for worse.
The tranquility continues with "Camera," where the opening reverbed vocals and organ may trick you into thinking a Coldplay song snuck onto the album. A simple, plucky guitar riff, deep fuzzy bass-line and gentle, snare-less drum line come in at the choruses to give the track more substance - but come the bridge and afterwards, the track is flooded with guitar, synth and violin melodies. The album comes back to an up-tempo alt-rock gear with "In My Home." The drummer finally gets to release some pent-up energy with plenty of fast drum-fills, and the guitars stick with simple power chords while the bass gets to show off with interesting riffs throughout the song. The drummer stays energetic with a rolling hi-hat drum-line in "Eros," and the guitars and bass play catchy riffs that don't flood the sound waves. This makes Gadhia's voice attract the most attention in the track, but the instruments get a minute to themselves in the long, fading outro. The guitars get to play around a lot more in "Teachers," and the drummer throws in some nice drum-fills in. At the bridge, Gadhia's voice is at a delicate falsetto, but transforms into strong shouting at the final chorus in order to keep up with the collective eruption of sound from the instruments. "Waves" wipes away the intricacy of sound that it followed and brings forth a basic, plucky three-note guitar riff, a simple bass-line and drum-line for the verse, while Gadhia's voice stays pretty tame throughout. As the second guitar comes in, the guitar-lines start filling in more space. At the bridge, the left-chamber guitar-line and bass-line get more complex. "Paralysis" slows things down a bit, but the drummer's open-hi-hat-rolling drum-line at the choruses keeps the energy from being compromised. The omnipresence of synths give this song a serene feeling, while the guitars and bass act as wallflowers until the bridge, where they start to bring some notable riffs into the song.
Lyrics — 5
Simply listening to the music, the lyrical aspect of "Mind Over Matter" seems fine. There are basic and catchy gems, like "it's a mystery night/and I thought we had fun/but in the morning light/your car's already gone" in "Camera," "we can analyze, philosophize/but who's to say/all we know is/we're here today" in "Waves," as well as the choruses of "Crystallized" and "Firelight." But there are also cases where some lyrics are too elementary and lacking in substance, such as "New York City: it rains! /fly to east LA in big jet planes" in "Mind Over Matter," and "close the front door/I don't wanna go/like I'm on 'The Truman Show'" in "It's About Time." Gadhia also attempts to make some of his lyrics tough to decipher - and while that would naturally make them intriguing, they seem to get less interesting under scrutiny. It's best to just enjoy the lyrics at face value, because they're not worth a whole lot more than that.
Overall Impression — 7
It's not necessary to listen to Young The Giant's debut album before listening to "Mind Over Matter." While "Mind Over Matter" is a bit more delicate and refined than Young The Giant's debut album, ultimately, there's no big difference between the two - you'll be getting the same indie rock/alt rock either way. Young The Giant doesn't try anything new here, but for a band this young (pun intended), there's plenty of time to try new things later. For now, they're cultivating their sound's comfort zone, and "Mind Over Matter" is a solid column for their early discography.