The man can sing, but what’s he saying?
I keep coming back to this thought while listening to Mind Over Matter, the new album from, Young the Giant. It’s an undeniably strong record in terms of vocal prowess, production techniques, and musicianship. The band sounds great, the vocals sound great, the elements are all there … but what does the sum of the parts create? With each passing listen I find myself increasingly frustrated with not knowing the answer. It’s like walking into the best steak-house in the city, sitting down, expecting the best meal of your month … and being handed an Outback cut.
Will you eat it and probably enjoy it to some degree? Sure.
Is it what you wanted? Nope.
Is it worth coming back for more? Probably not.
That’s where I find myself with this album: I’m sitting at the steak-house, looking at all the ingredients, knowing that my mouth should be watering instead of feeling it fill up. Sameer Gadhia, lead vocals, has one of my favorite pure voices in music and yet he’s not using it to say anything that means anything. The words sound pretty next to each other, but I don’t hear anything behind them. It’s an exercise in how even the most pitch-perfect singers need something of substance to be singing about to take a song from good to great. And, before I get too far along - I need to point out, none of this is to say there aren’t portions I really like here. The lead single “It’s About Time” has an almost Mutemath quality to it that I find endearing. The title track, “Mind Over Matter,” has a fantastic ballad chorus. The last track stands out after a plodding middle section. And the album as a whole I find myself capable of listening to and putting on in the background — but it’s all so safe, so saccharine, so capable of more. There’s nothing about it that grabs you and forces you to listen. There are so many times where I practically shout at the speakers for the band to shake it up, even just a little. Yet nothing as a whole ever reaches the potential of the individual talents.
Bands like Imagine Dragons have seen their careers blossom from albums just like this one, and I honestly wish the band the best. We were one of the first websites to premiere music from an early incarnation of the band, The Jakes, and I’ve been following their careers closely ever since. But, for as much as I want the experience of eating a great “once a year” kind of meal … I’m left hoping happy hour is still going on so I can grab a beer and some wings on the way home … I’m left hungry.