by Jay Hahn
When bands like Young the Giant release a great debut album, it becomes hard to look at the sophomore album in the same light. We throw phrases like “sellouts” and “sophomore slump” around like curses at thanksgiving dinner. I mean, how can we not? How dare a band treat us to something so magnificent and then give us a cheap fix to get us by. I didn’t intend for musicians to sound like drug dealers, but it happened and let’s move past it. Don’t let my rambling fool you. I thought YTG’s second album Mind over Matter was an honest attempt to live up to the expectations. They even released the full album stream on iTunes a week before the release date. How generous.
I liked the album for what it was, I truly did. I am also very happy with their switch from Roadrunner Records to Fueled by Ramen, both subsidiaries of Warner. The former label containing weenie rock and metal bands like Alter Bridge and Nickleback was too large, whereas Fueled by Ramen is smaller with bands such as fun. and Twenty One Pilots. They were also able to work with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen who’s produced for artists such as M83 and Neon Trees. A pretty good situation, wouldn’t you agree? We get some of what we expected on Mind over Matter. Sameer Gadhia’s vocals were amazing. He has a great voice and since he isn’t in a genre where he has to scream over chugging breakdowns, we can expect this to stay true. Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata’s guitars were on point. They provide that signature Southern California sound on a majority of the album and compose great melodies and harmonies that kind of blow my mind. The rest of band did their part as well.
Let’s keep looking at the positives. They did a great job of arranging the positions of each song. From the first actual song, “Anagram”, to the last, “Paralysis”, there is a good pattern. There are some notable songs at the beginning, a good soft number in the middle to break the monotony, then we pick back up again. There’s nothing more annoying than an album that puts five awesome songs in the beginning and then six boring ones that leave me thinking that listening to a Skrillex album would have been time better spent. The compositions of most of the songs were well done. The guitars were innovative, the drums were well thought out, the vocals were good, and the lyrics to some of the songs were great. There are countless adjectives I could use but let’s move on.
Now, here’s my beef with the album. I am all for trying new sounds on albums to keep listeners interested. I actually enjoy that in bands. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” is an overrated saying. I get that some bands are appealing due to their distinct sound, but if we’re listening to that same sound over and over then there’s no room for growth in music.
That being said, a slight transition needs to occur when making a change that YTG didn’t quite execute. For example, the song “Eros” was a great song. The guitar was catchy and it was very enjoyable, until the synthesizer started rearing its ugly head. Strange high pitched synth notes would whirl in on certain beats making me question why they were there in the first place. Title song, “Mind over Matter”, had a heavy synth fuzz playing throughout the whole thing. It made for an interesting song but it was like they were using it just to use it. Other songs like “Anagram” and “Crystallized” use it perfectly and it makes sense. Time and place are really what mattered to me on some of these songs. The only other gripe I have about this album is that there are some songs that become repetitive but as I stated before, they arranged the album in a way that kept me listening.
Did Mind over Matter live up to the expectations set by Young the Giant’s self-titled debut album? No. But don’t let that take away the fact that it is a very listenable album. It is consistent for the most part and these musicians are very talented. Listen for the singles “It’s About Time” and “Crystallized” but this album definitely has some other great tracks that are worth your time.