Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Fueled by Ramen Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Review Summary: Far from paralyzed, even if the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Has there ever been a more mismatched band and record label combination than Young the Giant’s self-titled LP being released by Roadrunner Records? Here we had a young group of Californian indie-rockers rubbing shoulders with metal behemoths such as Opeth and Slipknot. Maybe it was this weird amalgam of genres – along with the constant promotion of the quintet’s multicultural backgrounds – which heightened anticipation for the record to the point of inevitable disappointment.
It's been four years since these summery, bummery Californians dropped the power-pop bomb "My Body," earning fans from MTV to Morrissey. Their second album, and first for Fueled by Ramen, adopts the post-Spotify try-anything attitude of new labelmates Cobra Starship and Twenty One Pilots. When they nail the postmodern smash-up thing, it's explosive, inventive rock: "Anagram" sounds like Dirty Projectors headlining the Bamboozle Festival, and "It's About Time" marries Foo Fighter fuzz, Justin Timberlake croon, EDM sputter and spiraling high-life guitars.
On their hotly anticipated sophomore album, Mind Over Matter, Orange County modern rockers Young the Giant skate even closer toward the big-budget glitz their 2011 debut promised. Propelled by the success of their breakout hit, "Cough Syrup," they've made the jump to Warner subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, home to acts like Panic! At the Disco and Paramore, a seemingly more relatable roster than at their former home, the metal-centric Roadrunner Records. For Mind Over Matter, producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen has amped up the group's chiming, angular riffs and compressed the shimmering synths to present an able, straightforward modern indie rock record.
The curse of the second album. Some careers are built slowly, album after album showing a band growing into their own, finding a sound, perfecting that sound (see: The National). A very, very rare few crush it out of the gate, dropping a goddamn near perfect first album and then keeping it up as the years progress (see: Arcade Fire). Another subset of bands have the good fortune of putting together a remarkable first album, but then stumble on the second.
Modern mainstream rock is thankless work, an ouroboros of familiar ideas that is notable mainly for managing not to atrophy into total disappearance. It is a space of diminished influence and relevance, a haven for the dull and complacent. Which is why, when something of note happens in that world, it resonates loudly. Both Young the Giant and Foster the People began making noise in 2010, even though they had awkward, similarly structured (and silly) names.