Showing posts with label young the giant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young the giant. Show all posts

Saturday, August 20, 2016

video review: 'home of the strange' by young the giant

Ah, this was a pleasant surprise. Seriously, I did not expect this to be remotely good, and look what we got! Nice to see Young The Giant start to put together a distinct sound, it's comforting.

Next up, the Cody Jinks video and then my vacation series begins - stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

album review: 'home of the strange' by young the giant

So let's go back to the beginning of 2014. I was still getting the handle on my reviews and I started getting requests to cover the newest album from Young the Giant. Now I wasn't hugely familiar with the band - the most I knew from them came from Glee and even that was just 'Cough Syrup', but going through their discography, I was mostly indifferent. There was a term I adopted around that time called 'silent majority' acts, bands that critics might not care about or even bother to review, but somehow do just enough to end up on every middlebrow playlist, and at least for their self-titled debut album, Young The Giant seemed to fit into that niche. A lot of colourless liquid guitars, blurry production, mostly empty lyrics, and a frontman that just did not stand out for me. But with the introduction of Justin Mendel-Johnson to the production team for their sophomore follow-up, I had hoped things might develop a little more cohesion...

And that didn't happen. I went back to relisten to Mind Over Matter to see if I had indeed been too hard on that record, and...look, I get the appeal of a good U2-esque guitar flutter and arena rock swell, and I even thought their lyrics actually took a step in the right direction. But the production was so muddy, messy, indistinct and did absolutely nothing to flatter Sameer Gadhia vocals - which, admittedly, aren't always my thing but it could have come together better than this. But worse still were compositional problems at the roots: wild transitions in tempo and sound that almost wanted to lean towards progressive metal but didn't stick the landing, or flatter the group's knack for some decent melodic hooks. And what was most exasperating is that none of this made the record precisely bad, just overmixed and forgettable, all the more evidence that Justin Mendel-Johnson might be a far better musician than producer.

So until I started getting requests to cover this, I had no idea where the band was going to go next. It seemed like they had pivoted to making shorter records, as Home Of The Strange was easily their most succinct release to date, and they had brought in producers Alex Salibian and Jeff Bhasker to add more of a boost. And truth be told, if I hadn't heard some interesting critical buzz or if I didn't need more time to work my way through discographies from Cody Jinks, Atmosphere, and Ka, i probably wouldn't have covered this. But what the hell - I've got no ill will towards Young The Giant beyond indifference, so how did the record turn out?

Monday, January 20, 2014

video review: 'mind over matter' by young the giant

Fully expect some nasty fallout for this one, but what are you going to do, stop? Hardly.

Next up... well, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'mind over matter' by young the giant

Just over a year ago, when I made my list of the Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2012, I put Imagine Dragons' 'It's Time' on the list and I made the comment that it was a song that only charted for two reasons: the increased swell of indie rock and Glee. Yes, the TV show everyone loves to hate featured that song at the beginning of their fourth season and it helped get 'It's Time' on the charts. In fact, if you take a deeper look at the growth of indie rock in the mainstream, you can give a lot of the credit to Glee for getting acts like fun. and Gotye to chart.

But here the thing: there have been other indie rock acts who have tried to utilize Glee for chart success, and they haven't all worked out. And today, we're going to be talking about one of them that didn't take off: Young The Giant, an act I can throw into the mix with Foster The People and The Neighbourhood as an indie rock act I really can't stand. And the frustrating fact is that from the pool of influences that Young The Giant is drawing from, I should like this band a lot more than I do. The guitar work reminds me of a blend of Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol, the lead vocalist reminds me a bit of Chris Martin, and the lyrics have a freeform cryptic style to which I typically find intriguing.

But after listening to their debut self-titled album, I had to come to the conclusion that none of this material is better than the sum of its parts. The guitars are leaden and swallowed by feedback and reverb, so none of the tightness comes through and yet for some bizarre reason there's none of the dramatic emotional swell that the reverb was supposed to create (in other words, trying to be Snow Patrol or U2 and failing). Lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia has an agreeable voice but nothing all that special in indie rock and the production doesn't lend him a lot of texture. And as for the lyrics... look, I like freeform, oblique lyrics, I listen to The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, and Bill Callahan for God's sake. But there needs to be some cohesion, and Young The Giant didn't have that with their debut. There's some decent imagery and some phrases that sound deep at first listen, but the second you start looking for deeper meaning or any sort of theme or start thinking about these songs at all, nothing materializes as distinct or all that likable. And I'll say it: I liked the Glee cover of 'Cough Syrup' than Young The Giant's version of it - the guitar was tighter and more distinct in the mix, Darren Criss has more passion, and the production doesn't feel as grey and devoid of texture.

So some of you are inevitably wondering, 'Well, if he doesn't like this band, why the hell is he reviewing their follow-up album?' Four reasons: you guys requested it; I'm always willing to give acts a second chance; the band changed labels, arguably for the better and Young The Giant did take four years off between albums and for their newest album, they're working with Justin Mendel-Johnsen, a producer who has worked with Beck, M83, and Tegan and Sara and who I quite like. Perhaps the band would be able to pull something together that would be surprisingly strong, who knows? So I gave their newest album Mind Over Matter a chance - was it better than their debut?