Young the Giant have always been one of those bands that have been on my radar for about five years but have yet to really amaze me. Compared to other indie rock bands they’re not incredibly unique in many ways, which is not to say they are bad just forgettable at times. This being said, I was very impressed by the energy brought forward on “Something to Believe In” and I was actually kind of excited to see where to rest of this project would go. I also found their previous two albums mildly entertaining so at the very least I knew there would be something to get out of Home of the Strange.
Maybe it is because of my expectations but after my first listen I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this album. Mainly because of how much smarter it is from the band’s previous efforts. The opener “Amerika” is the first look on American society as lead singer Sameer Gadhia chronicles a story of an immigrant’s reaction to America. He criticizes the American dream as a “rich kid game” and that he “didn’t grow up with a throne.” The song is slower way to start, not really rising into much of a crescendo but I can forgive it since it is mainly focused on laying out the ground for the rest of this album.
This transitions to the radio-ready “Something to Believe In” which seems to be presenting two different ideas at the same time, while fitting well into the album’s overarching theme of finding oneself in America. First, this song is a plead for critics to listen to Young the Giant because they refuse to be written off by them. The second meaning, the one which fits into the narrative better, has Gadhia speaking to God, or some other higher power, and letting them know he is writing his future now. It shows a band hungry to take advantage of their opportunities, similar to those who immigrate here.
This quest for power continues with the heavy “Jungle Youth” where we are painted of the protagonist of this album living a poor life and being critical of the elite that surround him. Religious symbols are used to represent this elite, with Holy Water being seen as something the rich anoint themselves with to feed their entitlement. This goes into “Titus Was Born” which introduces the central character of Home of the Strange. The strings to this song are smooth and easing as we are told of Titus’ life story as a young immigrant, who is full of hope that his future will be bright and exciting. “Repeat” picks up as one of the final songs discussing society, in a less critical way, saying that this world is full of life and no matter what happens the Earth will spin on repeat.
Young the Giant also seems to be talking to their audience with the jab at millennials that is “Mr. Know-It-All” which tell the story of Jack and Jill, two kids who everyone assumes are interesting and adventurous people but in reality just talk up their lives. And to avoid the hypocrisy, Gadhia puts himself into the narrative, singing the chorus in the first person, letting us know that he is willing to admit he also suffers from this problem. The line “try to live up to the person you pretend to be” is one that has stuck with me more than most in 2016. It summarizes the message of the song perfectly and is delivered with such power it is hard not to love it.
Songs like “Elsewhere” and “Art Exhibit” seem to deviate from the central theme of the album and focus on a lost love of Gadhia’s. “Elsewhere” is more reflection on the regret you feel when turning down someone’s love and then realizing it might have actually become something. Gadhia is wearing is David Bowie influences on his sleeve here which certainly is not a problem for me. “Art Exhibit” is similar as Gadhia looks back at an ex and thinks of the pain the memories of her bring. It is one of the most stripped down songs, being mainly backed by a ukulele, and is a great showcase for Gadhia’s vocal talents.
The songs “Silvertongue” and “Nothing’s Over” are two dance songs that are definitely new to Young the Giant’s style and continue to add to the variety of sounds on this record. “Silvertongue” is definitely the more energetic of the two and is certainly plenty of fun but lyrically falls a little flat and does not fit with the other songs here. The beat of “Nothing’s Over” is what drives it. It is a great conclusion for the album as the group repeats the same chorus with a variety of different sounds backing it. It works as a better closer than “Home of the Strange” which honestly could have fit better as an opener if worked a little.
This record really did surprise me with its intelligence and themes which mostly stuck with me and stayed consistent throughout. This is by far the group’s best album and has me excited for what they might do next. They are showing me that they have the ability to do great things in the future and I really hope they are able to build off of this to make something amazing.
Best Tracks: Something to Believe In, Elsewhere, Mr. Know-It-All, Jungle Youth, Titus Was Born, Repeat, Art Exhibit, Nothing’s Over
Worst Track: Home of the Strange