Apr 8, 2012

Album Review: Young The Giant

Based out of Irvine, California, Young the Giant is a folksy alternative/indie band (buzz-word, buzz-word, buzz-word; I don't know, somewhere between Mumford & Sons and The Killers? A little Vampire Weekend thrown in). When forming in 2004, the group went by "The Jakes", but I'm reviewing track-by-track their debut album put out October 26, 2010 upon the band's rechristening, "Young The Giant". Running just over fifty minutes, like so many artists before them, their first album is self-titled. Here we go!

1) "Apartment" - I have no idea what this song is about, but man do I love it. Everyone in the band is at the top of their game on this song, but lead singer Sameer Gadhia really sucks you in with his vocal work. This could be the most morbid, sinister, perverted song in the world and I would sit dreamily drifting away to it without a care in the world. *****

2) "My Body" - Much like Apartment, the lyrics don't really make sense or matter. According to an interview with USA Today, "My Body" was written in a cathartic jam session at the end of a frustrating day. It wouldn't surprise me if all Young the Giant's lyrics were written/made-up on the spot during a jam session, but Gadhia totally Cobain's it and makes it work. Up-beat, energetic, fiery, and best of all, rebellious. Rebellious against yourself! "My body tells me no, but I won't quit, cause I want more." *****

3) "I Got" - Taking the excitement down a notch, we get a bit Caribbean with the music, and a bit Enchantment Under The Sea dance with the chorus. That's my way of saying melodic doo-wop, like "Earth Angel" by The Penguins. While not a bad song, the jumping between the two styles comes off choppy and off-putting. ***

4) "Cough Syrup" - While the lyrics (once again) don't make much sense all together, there are some really great lines to this song. The opening hook packs a heck of a punch, "life's too short to even care at all." The upbeat nature of this song is second only to My Body and really gets me pumped up, while at the same time keeping me grounded because of the basic message. The somber point of the song is waiting for your ship to come in, which everyone can relate to.  *****

5) "God Made Man" - Building me up with so many great songs made this track a weak point in the album. While the beat is beautiful, the band really flourishes when sung passionately and emphatically, which this song goes mostly without. In the last minute of the song we get the vocals grown accustomed to listening to the first four songs, but it's a long and trudging trip to get to it. ** 1/2

6) "12 Fingers" - Better than God Made Man, but really not by much. The ranging vocals are back and the song is much more upbeat, but the rest of the band now goes on lunch break. All of the chords come off repetitive and uninspired. This song really doesn't have much substance to it at all, but I still consider it slightly above the previous track. ** 3/4

7) "Strings" - And just like that, Young the Giant climbs out of it's middle-of-the-album rut. This song isn't mind-blowing, but is thoroughly enjoyable. The band is back from lunch with some really creative licks and are excited to show them off. Vocals make an honest effort but there's a certain "it" factor missing from this song that doesn't stack "Strings" up against "Cough Syrup". ****

8) "Your Side" - Close but no cigar. The album-middle slump is a harder one to get out of than previously thought. You get some decent stuff in this song but the vocals actually come off grating with their forced range. A generous ***

9) "Garands" - I spoke too soon! This song is not only fantastic, but movie soundtrack worthy. Just listening to this track will give you vivid emotion and imaginative mental imagery. While not a radio-played single, this is undoubtedly a hidden gem on the album that everyone should seek out. *****

10) "St. Walker" - What in the world? Where did this side of the band come from? I love it! Reminiscent of The Doors, this is a song I could listen to on repeat. Oddly, the title is "Street Walker", not "Saint Walker" as I thought. Still, this is another mind-blowing hidden gem on the album that will likely go unfound by those who don't get this whole album (or read this review). *****

11) "Islands" - This is like The Doors in a bad way. Experimental, poetic, but hardly feels like a song. Minimal emotion, music, or anything to care about. I halfway expected this from the track placement however so that whatever closes the album will leave a good taste in my mouth. Or ears. Or whatever. **

12) "Guns Out" - Not an awful track to close out the album with, but not amazing. Swapping this track placement with St. Walker would have really done the album as a whole a favor. Most of the song is pretty good but it gets a little too experimental and irritating at times. Maybe you'll really like this song if you like Myles Kennedy (Alter-Bridge) sopranos. ***

My Highlights:
"Apartment", "My Body", "Cough Syrup", "Garands", and "St. Walker"

Overall Rating:
Averaging all the track ratings together, the total rating comes to *** 3/4. However, looking at the big picture - debut album, numerous highlights, and interesting new sound to the music scene, I'm going to use my super-duper reviewer powers to up the total. Adding on some brownie points, the overall rating of this album is...
**** 1/4
Four and a quarter stars out of 5!

image from Amazon

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