2018 has been a good one for indie albums, with hits like Courtney Barnett’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel” and Mitski’s “Be the Cowboy.” Young the Giant is providing yet another one with the newly released “Mirror Master.”
Known for singles like “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” Young the Giant embodies the balance between the pop formula and classic rock while still leaving room for experimentation with synthesizers and other electronic sounds. Following their 2016 album “Home of the Strange,” the newest album, written in narrative form, pulls the audience into its story. The album follows a lost individual, trying to determine his own life outside the many influences in the world. Outside factors like relationships, expectations, parental goals and societal pressure guide him in directions he does not want to take. And this album follows those ups and downs of life in the journey of self-discovery and personal exploration.
"Mirror Master" opens with the atmospheric sound of “Superposition,” telling the classic tale of unrequited love with extensive physics metaphors. Alluding to concepts like “superposition” and “black stars,” lead singer Sameer Gadhia promises a persistent love for someone regardless of universal divides. He begs for her to feel the same way, as he relies “on chemistry” and “colliding in spaces that divide” them rather than losing this love.
The following three tracks, “Simplify,” “Call Me Back” and “Heat of Summer,” continue the narrative of love. In “Simplify,” the narrator’s relationship from “Superposition” has become filled with complications and struggles, as he hopes to “simplify” their relationship down to just the two of them. But it seems his desire for this simpler love has failed as the album progresses into “Call Me Back.” From the hopeful sound of “Simplify,” Gadhia makes a drastic transition to the brooding opening of “Call Me Back” with its melodic pleas for her return. His love left him with empty promises and a lonely heart, as he hopes for her to pick up the phone. After this loss, in “Heat of the Summer,” the singer, rather than focusing on the beauty of summer, defines it by heat, drug-induced paranoia and relentless pain.
“Oblivion” spirals further into the loss of love and identity, as he fears the unknown and what is to come. Without the guidance of relationships and unable to find his own path, Gadhia believes the only way to escape is “sell your soul to make it.” Yet even through this, Gadhia realizes there are others sharing such battles and finds hope in the melancholy dream of “The Darkest Shade of Blue.”
Gadhia then finds the all-time low in “Brother’s Keeper” with no reason to pretend anymore. Alluding to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Gadhia wonders if he will ever improve or if he will be doomed the fate of Cain, forever lost and weighed down by sin. Yet in “Glory,” Gadhia seems to be finding hope again yet this time within failing expectations, a form of redemption he believes to be from God. Escaping the life of Cain by admitting his sin, he no longer has to be what the world wants him to be, instead having a world to make. In that, he finds his own personally defined glory.
With a sound reminiscent of early Maroon 5 and a funky guitar riff, “Tightrope” embodies the conflict between personal goals and predetermined societal and familial plans. Gadhia is wondering if the redemption expressed on “Glory” is worth it, weighed down by the balancing act between the expectations of his parents and the guidelines laid down by the world around him.
A dip in this continual fluctuation, “Panoramic Girl” represents all the experiences lost to memory, namely lost love, reminiscent of a blend of David Bowie and the Plain White T’s. His lover has now become only a memory and a life that could have been vanishes. This is one last look at the memories and experiences of the life he once had before his complete absolution. And after letting go, Gadhia can change, particularly, through “You + I,” in his perspective on love. He seems less willing to promise himself to someone without being sure of her feelings and less dependent on her answer.
The album ends on a hopeful note with “Mirror Master.” Despite his struggle, the narrator remains hopeful, believing this time, it will be better. He will get the girl and be the lead actor in his own life. Like much of society, he has let other things control his life: his lover, his parents, society itself. But, he has decided to let that part of him “resign,” remaking the image in the mirror and retaking control over his life, as he advocates for the listeners. He is claiming authorship over what he will become, the good and the bad, rather than leaving it up to the world.
Ultimately, what makes this album as memorable as it is, beyond the incredible skill of Young the Giant, is its portrayal of the human experience, the constant fluctuation between good and bad in life. It is the autobiography of mankind on what it means to be alive, and ultimately, what it means to be human.
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