Let me start by saying that soon, very soon (within the next decade), I’ll give you a definitive list of my 20 favorite bands/ artists, so we can differentiate between the who I love in the moment and those who are genuinely my favorites. Now, the reason for this clarification is because Young the Giant IS one of my favorite bands, and I don’t want to have labeled so many groups as “favorites,” that it starts to mean nothing. Now, whether they’re 'all time' is another question; but since they burst onto the scene back in 2010 with their self titled debut, there are few groups I have listened to more.
The group's second record, 2014's Mind Over Matter, was something I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. Their first album succeeded in creating a unique sound, with a handful of really good singles, but there was an unevenness to the record. A disconnect. Because of that I was looking to the second record to provide the same joys, five or six songs I could sink my teeth into. What I was given was a much more concise vision, an album with an excellent flow, and one free of any low points. They amped up the rock as well, which suited them. I loved it, and it ended up being one of my 10 favorite records from that year. This gave me a whole new set of expectations concerning their followup, Home of the Strange. I no longer wanted a few songs to vibe with, I wanted something complete, and that’s exactly what I got.
The album opens with the bands first single, “Amerika,” which talks about the search for one’s self in the American dream, against the pressure of the traditional American dream, which has turned into a quest for wealth rather than joy. INTRIGUE! The second track, and the best song on the album, takes things to another level. “Something To Believe In” is raw and powerful, highlighting the perfection that is Sameer Gadhia’s vocals. His tone is so unique; silky smooth when he takes it low, and that rasp when he goes into that higher, controlled yell? Goodness! I could listen to it forever. Whether he’s rocking out, or softly burning through the track, like he does on “Elsewhere,” it’s a feast for the ears. Style wise, this record seems to be a combination of their first two LPs, leading to a louder effort than their debut, but more subtle than Mind Over Matter. They’ve fine tuned both efforts, while building upon that established sound, which is why I think Home of the Strange is their best record to date. It’s original yet traditional, which is what you want from an artist.
I’ve listened to the album over and over and I can’t find any holes. It’s one of those records where, even if you prefer a certain track later in the album, you don’t skip to it, you wait until it gets there, because you don’t want to miss anything else. The records tackling of more mature themes marks a leap forward for the band as well. Their discussion of the current state in which America finds itself is opinionated, but never feels preachy, and adding songs like “Mr. Know-It-All,” in the middle lightens the mood. The band's propensity for catchy hooks is undeniable, hooks that come from having excellent pop sensibilities and fusing them seamlessly with their alternative sound. Everything just feels natural, and that's the best compliment I think I can give. This isn’t one to be missed.
The two songs I chose represent both sides of their sound. Enjoy!