A review of Young the Giant’s Home of the Strange

Maddy Schilling, Culture Editor

As the end of summer nears, it is only appropriate to look back at the best and brightest bits of the season. Summer 2016 brought with it a tidal wave of new music, particularly in the indie/alternative department. Most notably, after an appearance at Summerfest in Milwaukee and a single that conquered modern rock stations, alternative band Young the Giant’s highly anticipated third album, Home of the Strange, was released on August 12.
The name Young the Giant may sound familiar, especially to fans of local rock radio station 96.9 the Fox, which frequently plays a wide variety of tunes written by the group, from “Cough Syrup” to “Mind Over Matter.” Most recently, “Something to Believe In,” Home of the Strange’s biggest single, has dominated airtime as well as Billboard’s alternative chart, where it has clawed itself to the top 10.

Home of the Strange, however, starts with its second biggest single “Amerika,” a song that starts slow, gradually builds, and exudes a breed of dreamy catchiness that has become a part of the Young the Giant brand. Lyrically, it speaks of a lost American dream: “And so I’ve arrived with gold in my eyes…I was searching for something as I watched you run…it’s a rich kid game, didn’t grow up with a throne…” This all leads well into that cantankerous hit that is “Something to Believe In,” which again touches upon the sociopolitical themes of rebellion and revolution emulated so passionately in these two songs.

Perhaps due to constant overplaying or perhaps simply due to relatively lazy songwriting, the most popular song of the album is also one of its worst, along with “Jungle Youth” and “Silvertongue.” Some say that the gritty modernity of these tracks is refreshing, but to ears that are familiar with a whole lot of mainstream alternative, it is more a sign that YTG is trying to appeal to a broader alt-rock fan base; this particular collection of songs, while certainly not bad, is not really anything more than a catchy ripoff of anthems by Cage the Elephant and AWOLNATION.

On the contrary, the rest of the album is, like “Amerika,” absolutely beautiful and an invitation to step inside of Young the Giant’s own So-Cal musical dreamworld. Songs like “Elsewhere” and “Nothing’s Over” are unabashedly complex, with tempo changes galore. “Art Exhibit” is like a breath of fresh air, as ukulele solos and lead singer, Sameer Gadhia’s romantic vocal riffs create the musical epitome of a Parisian cafe. “Mr. Know-it-All” is straight up trippy in terms of composition but is also so relatable lyrically: “I’m Mr. Know-it-All…I’m staring at my phone…and even though we sit together…I feel so alone.” “Titus was Born” is certainly a favorite, with raindrops softly echoing in the background and guest vocals from drummer François Comtois as a much welcome addition to the song’s repertoire. Finally, like a sweet cherry to top it all off, “Home of the Strange” is the titular song that ends the album with a finesse that can only be described as strange, though in the best way possible.

Overall, this album was far from disappointing. In the past, critics labelled Young the Giant as a band unable to find their sound. While this criticism is not exactly true–YTG has always stood out in the alt world–Home of the Strange is the band’s response to these criticisms, and despite its faults, their new album is a testament to the members’ natural maturity and musical brilliance. Give it a listen, give the band a try and give into buying some concert tickets. You won’t be sorry.

For more information and dates for the Home of the Strange tour, visit www.youngthegiant.com.