There is a particular anticipation for sophomore albums that puts an enormous amount of pressure on bands as their fans wait expectantly for their next move. We’ve seen the first round, filled with the rush of excitement of “hitting it big” and “fulfilling a dream.” But the sophomore slump is real, and even the best debut albums can be followed by a disappointing encore.
Young the Giant’s self-titled debut album took listeners to a state of refreshing island bliss. Sameer Gadhia’s voice crooning through waves of both anger and serenity made the album not only good, but also an experience. The eponymous album was also produced using live-track recording, creating an all-encompassing sound in which listeners could lose themselves.
In Mind Over Matter, the band has proven its creativity and lyrical genius by producing an album that lives up to the debut. This sophomore album manages to make all of the right tweaks to deliver something that is fresh, not contrived.
This is not to say that the album is perfect. In fact, when the first single, “It’s About Time,” was released back in October, loyal fans were doubtful. Was the song good? Sure, but he band seemed to enter a realm of cookie-cutter rock that was not true to its usual free-flowing vibe. Young the Giant had delivered hard sounds before, such as the first album’s hit “My Body,” whose bass-heavy nature made you want to jump up and down. But “It’s About Time” lacked the passion that made you want to sing along; combined with a simple rhythm and chord progression, it just became boring.
Thankfully, “It’s About Time” and the other single, “Crystallized,” are the weak points of the album. (“Crystallized” returns to the familiar, beach-inspired sound fans are used to, but when “When the beat of my drum/ Meets the beat of your heart” comes in at the chorus, you know that Gadhia can do better.) After a soft electronic swell with “Slow Dive” as the introduction and running at just less than a minute, “Anagram” sets things off right as the second track of the album, probably one of its best. The build is incredible, starting with a gentle pizzicato and Gadhia’s crystal-clear serenade and gradually growing in its playfulness. When Gadhia belts, “I’m thinking that it’s all the same” at the end of the bridge, bringing in some powerhouse violins for the end, you know you’re in for an awesome ride.
The next star track is “Firelight,” the ballad of the album. Gadhia’s vocal talents cannot be emphasized enough ,and the song as a whole captures the tone of a gentle lullaby while still engaging the listener. Throughout the track, “ooh’s” make “Firelight” seem like it’s blowing through the wind, and the effect concludes with a whooshing fade out.
The beat picks up again two tracks later with “In My Home,” which has a bold sound and enchanting, celestial lyrics that avoid the usual clichés. The track successfully delivers to listeners the visceral reaction that “It’s About Time” attempted to provoke, but goes one step further in poetics to make it a real success. “In My Home” takes the perfect calming dip before the last passionate chorus, with Gadhia singing quietly, “I’m paralyzed/I’m paralyzed,” perhaps as a preamble to the last song of the album, “Paralysis.”
“Eros” follows next, taking an interesting turn in terms of strengths. Though Gadhia still shines, the guitar line in this track takes the spotlight with mesmerizing riffs throughout. The ending allows for some solo time that I can only imagine would be amazing to see live, making the upcoming tour all the more exciting (great news: Young the Giant will play in Wallingford this March!).
Though the build-up to the album’s release may have been cause for doubt, listeners will be more than satisfied when they give the whole thing a chance. Any faults found in the singles are quickly remedied by other innovative tracks and creative risks that stay true to Young the Giant’s layered yet relaxed sound.