By: Dana Himrich, Contributor, Regional Music Journal
These days, when you listen to radio stations or streaming playlists that focus on the most current popular music, you are going to find a lot more than the standard pop singles and artists. The mainstream music scene is increasingly showing favor to genres that were once considered niche interests, such as rap, hip-hop and alternative. The last of these is particularly noticeable, and there is a frequent overlap between the catalogues of mainstream radio stations and the stations devoted to alternative music. One example of this change in cultural tastes is the success of alternative rock band Young The Giant, whose most recent album Mirror Master was released in October of last year. With its laid-back, almost psychedelic sound and basic approach to music creation, the band and others like it offer a refreshing change from their flashier contemporaries.
YTG was first formed in 2004 in Irvine, CA as “The Jakes.” The band’s current lineup consists of Sameer Gadhia on lead vocals, Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata on guitar, Payam Doostzadeh on bass guitar and Francois Comtois on drums. Gadhia and Tilley were part of the original lineup, which also included Addam Farmer, Kevin Massoudi and Ehson Hashemian. The group made a few recordings during the 2000s, but they started to gain their current popularity in 2010, by which time they had solidified their current lineup and changed their name. Their first album, simply titled Young the Giant, was released in the US in October of 2010. The two lead singles from that album, “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” reached #5 and #3 respectively on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. Performing at the 2011 VMA Awards pulled the band further into the public consciousness. Three albums have followed since then: Mind over Matter in 2013, Home of the Strange in 2016 and Mirror Master in 2018.
The band members have spoken in the past about placing emphasis on transparency and simplicity in their recording process. “It’s not far removed from our live show,” Gadhia said of the band’s first album in a 2010 interview with LA Music Blog. “We didn’t ever want to put something out there that is impossible to reproduce live, and I think we stick to the integrity of being a five-piece band, which is really refreshing for us.” This commitment to a more authentic musical style can be heard and even seen in the band’s early work. “My Body” and “Cough Syrup” are fairly standard rock songs where instrumentation and melody are concerned, and the music video for the latter focuses mostly on just the band performing the song. With Mirror Master being released eight years later, it’s only natural that the sound of YTG has evolved in the interim. In this new album, the band takes a step away from the hard beats of conventional rock and offers up music with a more psychedelic, dreamlike feel. For example, consider the first two tracks on the album, “Superposition” and “Simplify,” which were also the first two singles. They possess a lazy, ethereal quality like that of contemporary alternative bands M83 and Coldplay. But while those bands favor a larger, more bombastic sound better suited for arena performances, YTG retains its more subdued and simplistic approach. On the album’s “big” songs like the lead singles, there is a lot going on musically, but it never becomes a confusing muddle of sound, and the individual instruments can still be identified. Then there are the “small” songs like the quiet and wistful “Call Me Back,” where the instruments stay in the background and the focus is on Gadhia’s vocal talent.
It would be easy to criticize Mirror Master’s tracks as being too lethargic and drifting along without leaving much of an impression. To do so, however, would be to miss the central point of the album. A lot of the songs in Mirror Master deal with trying to find direction in a seemingly directionless world, whether it’s by following the emotional pull towards a loved one (“Superposition” and “Simplify”), staving off the feelings of hopelessness with indulgence (“Heat of the Summer”) or by facing your fears directly (“Oblivion”). Taking this into account, the lazier pace of the album becomes thematically appropriate, complementing the introspective lyrics. It’s an ideal marriage of music and words to communicate an idea, something that all great music should strive for.
With Mirror Master, Young the Giant continues to define itself as a thought-provoking musical group with a smooth, relaxed sound that will appeal to those dissatisfied with mainstream pop. It will be fascinating to see how their music style keeps evolving in the future.
YTG’s website is www.youngthegiant.com, and its albums can be found at most major physical/digital retailers and streaming services.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
02/06/19 – Tennessee Theatre – Knoxville, TN
02/07/19 – Georgia Theatre – Athens, GA
02/08/19 – Georgia Theatre – Athens, GA
02/09/19 – The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
02/12/19 – The Signal – Chattanooga, TN
02/14/19 – The Lyric Oxford – Oxford, MS
02/15/19 – Cain’s Ballroom – Tulsa, OK
02/16/19 – Hoyt Sherman Place – Des Moines, IA
02/17/19 – The Blue Note – Columbia, MO
02/19/19 – Canopy Club – Urbana, IL
02/21/19 – Elliott Hall of Music – West Lafayette, IN
02/23/19 – The Sylvee – Madison, WI
02/24/19 – Palace Theatre – St. Paul, MN
02/26/19 – Burton Cummings Theatre – Winnipeg, MB
02/27/19 – Coors Event Centre (formerly Known As O’brians Event Centre) – Saskatoon, SK, Canada
03/01/19 – Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium – Edmonton, AB, Canada
03/02/19 – MacEwan Hall, University of Calgary – Calgary, AB, Canada
03/04/19 – Orpheum Theatre – Vancouver, BC, Canada
03/06/19 – The Wilma – Missoula, MT
03/07/19 – Knitting Factory – Boise, ID
03/08/19 – Knitting Factory Concert House – Spokane, WA
03/09/19 – McDonald Theatre – Eugene, OR
04/28/19 – SandJam – Panama City Beach, FL
05/05/19 – Grizzly Fest – Fresno, CA
06/22/19 – Firefly Music Festival 2019 – The Woodlands, Dover International Speedway
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