I’m not sure how I got 18 days into this series without writing about Young The Giant. Like most indie rock fans, I’ve known of their breakout singles – Cough Syrup and My Body – for awhile. It wasn’t until their last record, Home of The Strange, that I really started paying attention to their full catalog.
Young The Giant isn’t reinventing any genres, but they’re excellent at what they do; writing and performing catchy, infectious rock. Their music is pretty straightforward, but I’ve always appreciated the high sense of literacy and abstract imagery that front-man Sameer Gadhia imbues in their music. Their songs are accessible, but leave room for the listener discern meaning.
Mind Over Matter, title track of their sophomore LP, has a good blend of the concrete and abstract. The song is clearly about the singer’s affection for a woman; how he can’t keep her off his mind. But on a deeper layer, this song seems to be about his disbelief in the concept of “mind over matter”. This song is a fantastic showcase of Sameer’s vocals, which are a true gem of Young the Giant’s music. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform in Grand Rapids back in February, and was happily surprised to hear him nail every note and crescendo. All of the instrumentals on this track are fantastic though; the shimmering hi-hats in the chorus have always stuck out to me.
Perception is reality is all well and good until you’re trying to focus your thoughts on something besides the object of your affection; the one who demands your headspace. The singer is busy; he’s on the road, playing shows, traveling from coast to coast. But he can’t keep his mind off the one he loves. Mind over matter seems impossible.
This idea has taken on another layer of meaning to me as I’ve been learning more about stoicism; the Hellenistic philosophy that encourages us to hold our reactions captive and shape our attitudes with reason. I’m really fascinated by this school of thought. I often feel like my mind is divided into exactly two halves; the side that is intellectually discerning, knows the right decision, calm, and reasonable, and there’s the other side. The other side is reactionary, impulsive, self-serving, insecure, and short-sighted. Stoicism – at an extremely high level – suggests that we can strength train the first half. Through reason, we can shape our attitudes to view hardship as blessing, to embrace challenges, and to leverage pain as an advantage. Mind over matter.
Bonus: Check out this acoustic version of Mind Over Matter that was recorded in a cave. You won’t want to miss Sameer’s vocals when he hits that chorus out of the bridge.