Album Review: “Home of the Strange”


   America is a country esteemed for its diversity. Yet, many immigrants face challenges in adjusting to American society and realizing the country’s imperfections. Indie rock band Young the Giant’s “Home of the Strange” is both a laudation and a criticism of the United States through the eyes of immigrants.

   The band itself consists of mostly immigrants or first generation citizens of America. Lead singer Sameer Gadhia is Indian, while the other band members have Italian, British, French Canadian, and Persian roots. The members’ diverse backgrounds give the album various unique perspectives that contribute to the complex messages regarding immigration.

   The first released promotional single, “Amerika,” opens the album with a wistful keyboard accompanied by lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s intimate crooning. Later in the song, a flow of serene synths accompanied by a steady drumbeat enter, developing a hazy, dreamlike atmosphere. The opener, along with the majority of the following album, is familiar to fans of the band with its melodic structure and its sleek production quality.

   The feature that sets the band’s new material apart from their past discography is its introspective, socio-politically charged lyrics. Gadhia frames “Amerika” through the eyes of a newly-arrived immigrant realizing the imperfections of the country. He sings, “It’s a rich kid game, didn’t grow up with a throne.” He highlights the difficulty of achieving the American Dream in a system that often favors the rich. In “Jungle Youth,” the most guitar-driven and traditionally rock-and-roll anthem of the album, Gadhia highlights the corruption of the powerful, particularly those in religious institutions.

   The band also analyzes the concept of cultural identity in America. In the playful “Mr. Know-It-All,” Gadhia pokes fun at those pretentious braggarts who listen to Bowie or quote Hemingway purely for status. He criticizes, “Try to live up to the person you pretend to be / You’re Mr. Know-It-All.” In more direct reference to immigrant identity, “Titus Was Born” is a gorgeous acoustic tune that follows the tale of a baby born at sea and his difficulty in finding a unique identity. Similarly, the catchiest, most popular song, “Something to Believe In” follows a conversation between God and a man attempting to find a reason to live.

   Of course, the album is not all dour and dismal, as many songs offer messages of hope and pride for America. Particularly, the highly melodic, charming “Repeat” contains a message of optimism and self-discovery through nature. “We’re caught up in the motion / So we move,” sings Gadhia. The closer, “Home of the Strange,” is a flag-waving anthem extolling the diversity and beauty of America.

   The subject content of the album is reflected in the diverse arrangement of instruments throughout the album. The members of Young the Giant seamlessly transition from acoustic ballads to rock head-bangers with a precise production quality. Particularly surprising songs include “Elsewhere,” a late night funk tune of unrequited love, and “Silvertounge,” a bass-driven, highly-danceable pop track. No matter the style of the song, the band maintains its signature, memorable sense of melody.

   In essence, Young the Giant’s title for their third album reflects their message about America. “Home of the Strange” evokes an intimidating, opaque image of the United States, but it also elicits the vision of a country containing many diverse, unique individuals. The band’s new album succeeds as both a collection of indie pop songs and a sweeping study of American society.