Young the giant band photo

Indie-rockers Young the Giant mix new sounds and familiar feelings with unbalanced results in the band's fourth album. 

To be absolutely transparent, I am a film critic. I've been doing movie reviews for six years and have never once considered writing about music — until I heard Young the Giant was releasing a new album this week. 

I couldn’t pass up the chance to officially document my love for this band. With frontman Sameer Gadhia’s smooth, heart-stealing vocals at the helm, Young the Giant has captured audiences with hits including "Cough Syrup" and "My Body." The band's musical arrangements feel as though they're springing straight from my soul every time I listen. Not to heap on the melodrama, but seriously: This indie-rock group has completely altered my perception of music since I discovered them two years ago.

In short, Young the Giant is THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST BAND TO HAVE AN ALBUM COME OUT THIS WEEK.

Mirror Master is the group's fourth album and, for better or worse, it sets itself apart from the three previous albums. Here's how it breaks down. 

Mirror Master album art

Mirror Master, while entertaining, lacks a common thread between songs. 

WHAT WORKS:

  • The feels: For me, I enjoy music most when it becomes a purely emotional experience, as many Young the Giant tracks accomplish. I appreciate meaningful lyrics, but if I’m focusing too much on them, then I think that means the music hasn’t successfully gripped me. Although this intense emotional connection usually forms after months of sporadic listening, I've noticed a few of Mirror Master's songs are on their way there. A good romance song is an easy win for me, and “Simplify,” “Superposition” and “Panoramic Girl” are just the right mix of sweet and soothing to ignite the intended sappy feelings.
  • The beats: I grew up in a house of rockers, so any music that forces me into an involuntary act of air guitar or headbanging has my approval. And no Young the Giant album is complete without at least one such banger. Thankfully, the title track “Mirror Master” — as well as the smashing “Oblivion” — bring the jam. The former is an upbeat, pump-up track while the latter has a twinge of reckless rebellion.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

  • The punk-grung tracks: Tracks such as “Glory” and “Brother’s Keepers” attempt to introduce biting punk-grunge into Young the Giant's familiar sounds through clunky religious imagery. Although I appreciate this attempt to explore new topics and sounds, it just doesn’t mesh with the band’s pop-dance and indie-rock feel. These songs resemble a ‘90s release from Smashing Pumpkins or Blind Melon to me, and I think it is one step too many outside of the band's comfort zone (something the group certainly sought after with this album).
  • The overall package: After listening to this whole album multiple times over the past few days, I can truthfully say that I never wanted to skip any of the tracks. However, I could never nail down a consistent through line. The band has created a collection of song pairs rather than a cohesive album — which, in all fairness, might be the point. The group has stated that the record is all about reflection (as if the album title didn’t give that away). And if every song was on par with my expectations, I probably wouldn’t mind as much. But this lack of an overall vision left me with some songs that simply coasted through my ears.

WHAT I THINK:

Mirror Master is another emotional — albeit uneven — journey from a band that uses rhythm and vocals to accomplish much more than mere entertainment. Even though the low points fail to reflect the band’s usual talent, the high points do more than enough to impress. Indie-rock fans should give this one a try for some solid, predictable singles, and Young the Giant fans can rest easy knowing this is not the album where the group veers off a cliff into a valley of suck. Simply temper your expectations.

Vox Rating: VVV out of VVVVV

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