Southern California band, Young the Giant’s third album, Home of the Strange, released this past August, addresses controversial political topics regarding the life of immigrants and their perception of and role in American society.
The band’s five members all have identities that add to the message they convey in the album, as they collectively have Indian, Persian, British, Italian, Jewish and Canadian backgrounds. The album opens with “Amerika,” a song whose inspired by Franz Kafka’s incomplete novel. “Amerika” tells the story of the album’s protagonist, who is reflecting on the misguided tales of the American dream: “Always talking about one day in America / Same old story, oh / You want glory son.” The protagonist of “Amerika” is tired of these false promises; disillusioned, he realizes that the American dream is much more dream than reality.
Lead singer Sameer Gadhia has you encounter this same protagonist later in “Something to Believe In,” a pop-rock anthem that highlights the amalgam of hope and determination that characterizes the American dream. The protagonist seems intent on breaking the expectations that their society has set for them and rising above these same expectations: “And I say, ‘You’ve got to listen, I’m a songbird with a brand new track / You underestimate.’” “Something to Believe In” somewhat mirrors and draws inspiration from the story of Gadhia himself. Gadhia was a student at Stanford pursuing a medical career when he decided to forgo academia for his dreams of being a musician. Like the protagonist of the song, Gadhia defied the expectations of those around him in an effort to accomplish what he wanted for himself. The final piece from the album that contains significant critical bearing is Jungle Youth, a punk-inspired tune about the drive for power. Gadhia sings: “I look up / I look down / Everybody’s bathing in Holy Water / Ain’t enough going around.” The idea of the American dream once again resurfaces in Jungle Youth, perhaps in a different way than the two previously mentioned tracks. This lust for power that the band touches on in Jungle Youth is perpetuated by the accessibility of that American Dream — because it is so close and so tangible, it inspires violent competition.
Overall, Home of the Strange displays yet another step forward in terms of development of the group’s style, as well as their purpose in general. The album contains electric effects and synths even more developed than those in Mind Over Matter and is yet another step away from the pure, acoustic direction that the band’s self-titled debut album flaunted. In terms of the overall message of the music, Home of the Strange represents a step forwards as well. While Young the Giant’s previous two studio albums contained loose significance and meaning, Home of the Strange is a collection of tunes that presents a coherent message to the listener; one that conveys the story of the outsider in modern American society. Home of the Strange is both a work of art and a must-listen.