- On Home of the Strange, Young the Giant's third full-length effort, the Southern California quintet buffer their passionate indie rock with polished production, resulting in their funkiest offering to date. Here the band opt for pop sheen and impeccable production courtesy of Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson) and Alex Salibian (Elle King, Mikky Ekko). The increased reliance on danceable beats and the layers of atmosphere mark Home of the Strange as the most exciting in their discography, if only because it offers more than a generic post-Coldplay arena rock sound. There are tastes of OneRepublic's genre-blending, Walk the Moon's indie-pop brightness, and even a little Hot Chip weirdness. It's also their biggest statement, conceptually tied to the ideas of living in "Amerika" and the related immigrant experiences faced by emigres and their offspring, which the bandmembers can each claim to different degrees. (To further illustrate the theme, the cover art depicts a sea of fictional flags held by a rainbow of cartoon humanity arriving in a new land.) Sonically, a colorful bunch of tracks also land on the shores of this album's strange new world, as Young the Giant weave a medley of influences into their standard rock framework. Sameer Gadhia's vocals are the standout, adopting more soul and passion than ever before, like when he croons on the gorgeously smoky R&B disco-funk "Elsewhere" or floats a falsetto along a woozy cloud on "Art Exhibit." The band -- guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bassist Payam Doostzadeh, and drummer Francois Comtois -- delight in the new directions, playing with bouncier riffs, synthesizer layers, and varied percussion. "Something to Believe In" chugs along in a tribal creep, with interjections of "hoo-hah!" peppered throughout, while the crunchy, Southern-fried rocker "Jungle Youth" is a grinding funk overload that struts like Bowie and gyrates like Prince. Like contemporary groover Borns, Young the Giant draw heavily on that glam influence on "Mr. Know It All" (even name-checking Ziggy himself) and the breezy "Repeat." On an album of standouts, the highlights veer toward the stranger end of the spectrum, where Young the Giant sound like a brand new band. "Titus Was Born" is a patient number, sounding more like an acoustic rumination from Jose Gonzalez, taking its time until a magic moment of blissful pop elevation. "Nothing's Over" starts ominously, before fading into a perfect soundtrack to a tropical cantina beach party at sunset. The album ends with the title track, an elastic electro-rock gem that bursts to life before an abrupt end. There is a wide range of ideas at work on Home of the Strange, which makes for a satisfying, engaging listen. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Here they flaunt a new-wave sheen that flatters them, replete with nifty electronic sound effects."
Entertainment Weekly - "Their richest and most varied project to date....They've dialed back their soundscapes to a more palatable 10-point scale, pivoting singer Sameer Gadhia's thick-as-molasses midrange to center stage."
Alternative Press - "HOME OF THE STRANGE adds back their debut's indie charm, then catapults Sameer Gadhia's sensational vocals to the front."