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On Home of the Strange, Young the Giant once again rebrands itself. Their second installment, 2014’s Mind Over Matter, featured a high-octane rock look for the fivesome. Home, however, is showcasing a different band entirely. The recipe for their third album is… Well, hell if I know. But, I can say the result of a two-year hiatus is a sort of oddball rock album, complete with Sameer Gadhia’s infallible vocals (“Mr. Know-It-All,” “Silvertongue”), distorted guitar, outside-the-box lyrics and concepts, and improved pacing. Home is the album you wanted Young the Giant to release. Until now, Young’s catalog was lackluster, with its singles representing the best of the band’s work. Third time seems to be a charm, as Young finds itself finally closing in on a winning formula.
The first song, and first single, “Amerika,” embodies the albums political undertones. “I was sad when you said that you never really wanted some,” sings Gadhia. I don’t know who wouldn’t, Sameer. “Amerika” delivers. It’s likability creeps up on you with each listen and instantly presents the new Young the Giant. It follows up with the equally impressive “Something To Believe In.” Beyond “Silvertongue” and “Mr. Know-It-All,” you won’t find a cooler showcase of Gadhia’s vocal talent. At least, not on this album. Short, choppy guitar riffs carry fans’ interest all the way to the last second. Really, this album is Gadhia’s vocal campaign from start to finish. It continues on “Elsewhere,” which features the lead vocals harmonizing with the guitar. It makes for sweet, sweet musical fusion.
“Mr. Know-It-All” is one of the stronger entries on this eleven-track monster. This song is character profile after character profile. It too has a focused lens on themes like identity and self-place. Young ditches the fun, wavelike blueprint of track four in exchange for heavily distorted rock on “Jungle Youth.” “Youth” sounds like it was written in a dingy basement. It could be a Black Keys song. Dan and Patrick probably wish they thought up this rough rocker. “Titus Was Born,” the sixth entry, sounds like the soundtrack to a dog commercial, or maybe an island song. The tempo picks up at around the two-minute mark, and settles into this lullaby’s second half. “Repeat” is a sound similar to “Something to Believe In.” It’s another chapter detailing various geographies, worldly and otherwise. Background vocals take a rare step into the spotlight at the tail end of this one.
The homestretch on Home flashes its brightest moment with “Silvertongue.” Aptly named, to say the least. On the back half of the titular lyric, Gahdia reaches a spectacular high note that will have everyone attempting to recreate it. Good luck, though. The title says it all. Unfortunately, the album swan dives into what are easily its weakest songs. “Art Exhibit” isn’t awful, it’s just so bland compared to the bonkers spirit of every song preceding it. Still, though, some graceful vocals make this track worth listening to. The same, however, cannot be said for the penultimate “Nothing’s Over.” It’s essentially a melting pot of different styles, styles that don’t mesh at all. At the start, you would think you’re listening to The Weeknd, and that leads into a groove recalling Milky Chance, and from there on it’s a blender. And, whoever thought of an Indian flavor near the end was savagely remised. That atrocious sequence introduces the final piece, Home of the Strange. The first lines are as predictable as you would think: “land of the free, home of the strange.” Yikes. The song does get slightly better. But, it still doesn’t revive the bleak, final chapters of Home.
Though, the last quarter of Home is unimpressive, the strength of the remaining songs more than makes up for it. Jeff Bhasker and Alex Salibian, the third and fourth producers to work with Young the Giant, struck gold. After two forgettable albums, with mostly forgettable songs, singles notwithstanding, perhaps Young the Giant have found a sound they can rest on. You won’t find an album with so much personality this August. Don’t miss the charming swagger served up here.
Listen to the highlighted tracks discussed in the review: