Young the Giant is back again with their third album, Home of the Strange. The last we’d heard from them, the group released Mind Over Matter, which is one of my favorite albums currently. However, the critics and the band disagreed with me, and Young the Giant went back to a chiller sound that is more in line with their debut album for the tracks on Home of the Strange. Elements of the bombastic anthems in Mind Over Matter do remain in this new album, making an interesting mix of low-key alternative rock and all-out explosive rock.
Ironically, though the band returned aurally, the theme of the album is immigration to America. Or, Amerika, as the first track is called. It was the first single released and set the tone for the album well. In the same way that It’s About Time let the world know Mind Over Matter was going to be loud, Amerika lets the world know Home of the Strange is going to be smooth yet thought-provoking. The guitar twang before the chorus fits so well with the theme; it sounds foreign, but integrates itself into the pre-existing sound, like a well-blended immigrant. The lyrics don’t feel fully complete at times, but the atmosphere is captured beautifully in the opening track. Amerika is a standout of the album.
Something to Believe In will be the only song off of the album to get any sort of significant play. It’s got a simple, catchy hook that anyone can yell along with, making it a great concert song as well. The one noticeable oddity in the mostly-standard KONGOS-esque track is the second pre-chorus is cut short, with lead singer Sameer only fitting in one line before the chorus instead of two as usual. Probably on purpose, since the track is studio-polished to a shine, but an odd choice. It’s still a great track with lots of energy. It’s a bit more mature than what was on Mind Over Matter, but wouldn’t have been out of place in that album.
Elsewhere is the tragic sequel to Eros from Mind Over Matter. It’s a rather funky whine about feeling out of place on the dancefloor. Eros was about someone trying to pick someone up on the dancefloor and it seems whoever they tried has a few problems with the club they’re in. Elsewhere has a great sound once it starts, but fails to go anywhere. A bit filler-y by the end.
Mr. Know-it-All is also a sequel song, but an unofficial one to Rude by Magic!. And it also covers the same themes that Cool Kids by Echosmith covered, only from a third-parties perspective of the cool kids. There are a lot of neat touches to the mostly-reggae song that keeps it from the ditch that most modern reggae songs fall into. The samples after Sameer croons Bowie’s name in the first verse and Mozart’s in the second are well-timed and amusing. Plus, the perspective switches from verse-to-verse keep it interesting after the rather tired hook is burned into your brain. Great track.
Jungle Youth tries to be the bombastic anthem that Crystallized off of Mind Over Matter was, but just doesn’t live up to that track. It just doesn’t have the same charm. Jungle Youth goes for loud and in-your-face over everything else, and suffers for it. I do love the guitar solos and Sameer’s screams near the end, though.
Titus Was Born might be my favorite track off the album. I’ve always felt that rainwater has been underused in songs, so the constant use of it as sound and as a lyric in this song was extremely welcome. I think I figured out why I really like the track. The self-control of the band in the intro and eventual “burst” reminds me of Magic by Coldplay. The song doesn’t try to do too much, but nails the execution beautifully. Also, the ending just sounds like Magic by Coldplay. Very pretty track.
Repeat is probably the most forgettable song on the album. It covers the same ground Jungle Youth did right down to the evocation of a cup in the chorus. It’s got a neat sound from the synths in the verses, but nothing in the three minutes of it jumps out to me.
Silvertongue is fantastic. It’s the best “loud” song on the album with a great, funky hook. Sameer’s voicework is also top-notch both when it comes out clean and through a filter. That music video is creepy as heck, though. I love the intro to Art Exhibit. It sounds like a Pixar movie. And I like the lyrics. However, it’s just not my type of song. I had this problem with Firelight on Mind Over Matter. I just am not that into acoustic guitar with minimal synths. The ending solo is an interesting curveball, but it just doesn’t quite come together for me.
Nothing’s Over feels like it should be the closer to somebody’s mix CD with that standoffish chorus of “Nothing’s over, I’ll grow up when I’m older”. The song grabbed me the first time I heard it, but doesn’t have the staying power some of the earlier songs have. I do like how the synths build up after the first chorus and the small samples, and the track of the whole is above-average, but it isn’t as good as I thought it’d be. Home of the Strange closes the album and grabs the listener effortlessly for its entire 2:37 playtime. It feels like the verses and the chorus go to completely different songs, though, as the chorus sounds like a lamentation of America’s treatment of immigrants and the verses are about some girl. But… maybe the girl is the Statue of Liberty??? Nah, still weird.
Overall, while I don’t like Home of the Strange as much as I did Mind Over Matter, there’s plenty to enjoy on the album. It boils down to a more evolved and much more interesting version of their original sound on their debut album. Of course, Cough Syrup from that album outstrips everything on this one, but the rest of the tracks are simply better than what was on there. Still, nothing quite matches the intensity and energy of the standouts on Mind Over Matter. In the end, Home of the Strange is a solid album.