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Album Review | Young the Giant’s sophomore album cheap, derivative

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 08:01

A band’s personality can make or break its fan base, its credibility and its ability to establish itself in the industry. Best Coast, the west-coast crooners with simple, frank and sincere songs, has inspired a generation of teens with poignant nostalgia. Vampire Weekend, whose outrageous lead singer (Ezra Koenig) and trademark melodies have garnered a massive and loyal following, is a great example of successful personality development. Simply put, the character of a group can define how a listener enjoys its music. Bands are undeniably tied to how they present themselves and to the kinds of associations they evoke for the audience.

Young the Giant, however, is the kind of band that has no personality at all. While perusing the sophomore release “Mind Over Matter,” a listener may very well find him or herself wondering exactly what band is even playing on the record. It becomes painfully evident while listening to this newest effort that Young the Giant is totally confused. Each song on the 13-track album sounds like a sloppy cover of a B-side from some nondescript indie-pop band. Yet, at any particular moment, Young the Giant also can appear to be a cheap knockoff of Yeasayer, Coldplay, Grizzly Bear or Two Door Cinema Club. This is disconcerting, to say the least. Young the Giant seems like a chameleon too frightened to pick a color and stay that way. This trepidation may be buttressed by the perceived benefits of such musical inconsistency — Young the Giant is apparently convinced that channeling the worst parts of all of the best bands will possibly bring some notoriety or attention.

Unfortunately for the group, this formula represents a tragic miscalculation. “Mind Over Matter” follows the first, eponymous album released in 2010. Interestingly, that album drew similar criticism for a lack of discernible voice or purpose to what “Mind of Matter” is receiving now. Young the Giant, apparently, has failed to take past criticism to heart, creating another album as incoherent as its last.

Songs like “It’s About Time,” one of the singles off of the album, aptly showcase the band’s disingenuous songwriting. This number, marked by a distorted guitar riff, falsetto singing and pounding percussion, could easily be an Animal Collective or a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah track. Either way, the single reeks of anonymity — it is as vague as Young the Giant is lazy. What’s more, the title track of the album, “Mind Over Matter,” sounds like a strange mix of Coldplay and Daughtry and, as you would expect, this fusion is a horrendous musical nightmare.

The songs on the album vary from utterly forgettable to entirely offensive. The irony is that, whether or not the songs should upset the listener, the album is so monotonous and unimportant that it’s hard to even care about any aspect of it in earnest. How fans of Young the Giant will receive “Mind Over Matter,” however, is hard to speculate. Steadfast devotees of the band’s first effort may still enjoy the new release. But when an album represents no growth or forward motion — even the most loyal or simple audiences — tend to notice. Frankly, this album would be best put to use in the background of a conversation, just audible enough to hint at vague indie sensibilities but not so loud as to disrupt the discussion. For music fans with tastes that depend on both the musical integrity of bands and their sonic personalities, Young the Giant will only ever be a knock-off — and an offensive one at that.

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