Posted in Album of the Month

March: Heavy Heavy – Young Fathers

Young Fathers – I Saw

I find it staggering that it’s a whole 9 years since we covered Young Fathers’ debut Dead on the pre-podcast Blog days. In fact, it feels like a different lifetime, like so much before 2020 does. And yet almost a decade on, once I saw Heavy Heavy was dropping into my podcast slot, it didn’t seem like any other album would get a look in. But as soon as I picked it, I had to ask myself: just how much Young Fathers have you really listened to in the last few years? What do you know about them? Because it’s funny how much you like an artist or act and realise that outside those headphones you couldn’t even name them all.

The answer wasn’t quite as embarrassing as I’d quite feared, but it was much more odd tracks over supporting whole albums, which suddenly felt like I’d missed one of the most fascinating bands around completely. This thought would solidify over the next few weeks until it felt like a millstone. Despite this, one of the big reasons I’d chosen Heavy Heavy was just how much I’d loved the initial singles that appeared over the past 9 months. Geronimo arrived in July last year and as well as listening to it regularly, Spotify seemed to want to push it in my direction, something that puzzled me, (and there’s a wider discussion on the algorithm to be had later on). It made my end of year long list in 2022, with its quiet whispers sitting atop a brass-driven motif, before the discordant harmonies drew me in as it broke into song. A song, on its own, unwrapping the mystery of Young Fathers’ own kaleidoscopic sound and unique character in one, three-and-a-half minute epic.

Three more singles followed, in that strange streaming-era way that means you know a big chunk of most albums before they land, and each was different in its own brilliant way, from the bleak beauty of I Saw, evoking discarded immigrants (perhaps?) or – according to the band (from a recent Guardian interview) about how we all watched Brexit unfold and did, well, nothing. One song, many meanings. Follow-ups came from across the music spectrum: Tell Somebody’s swelling, orchestral lament and Rice’s loose, percussive chorus of voices. Of course, in isolation they felt like four great singles, but somewhat disconnected. But then, that’s how Young Fathers operate. Nothing is (as in Rice, the album’s opener) ‘in an orderly fashion’. They thrive on genre-bending records, jumping between styles even within a single chorus. But then, when it’s part of a whole, it all seems to fall into place.

Once thing I knew we’d get in comparison to some of the longer recent albums was brevity, focus and power. Heavy Heavy came in at 32 minutes, across ten songs. Heaven. Joey would have to get back through at least track 2 before his 39 minute walk ended! While not every album has to be 3 minute songs, this feels like a definite follow-on from their last album, 2018’s Cocoa Sugar, which saw the band make their most structured record to date, with its leaning on pop songs’ formula even as they retained their own badge. But where Cocoa Sugar was as restrained as Young Fathers get (and that word is doing a lot of heavy lifting here), Heavy Heavy has, for me, much higher highs and lower lows, musically and thematically.

Like all the best records it flies by: I’ve put it on twice many times already. But unlike some records which slip by almost unnoticed, this never fails to take the attention. In a music landscape of often rigidity – though lord knows there’s more than enough amazing music around – Young Fathers’ glorious m.o. of disregarding expectation and just letting rip – both softly and abrasively – is what marks them apart and frankly should have them even more lauded than their Mercury Prize-winning reputation deserves. I’ve listened to this album a lot, and while I have loved its sheer inventiveness, its vigour, its ability to slip between so many different colours on the spectrum, for a long while I struggled to work out how it made me feel.

Because we are all about the feels. And as I marvelled at Drum’s energy and uplifting falsetto, or Shoot Me Down’s chopped up samples dissolving into a weighty chant, or Ululation’s tribal wailing, it took me ages to land on what it meant. But now I’m there. It’s just JOY. The energy, the life that comes from this record, the way it lifts me up, you stand in its brilliant glare, absorbed, and then 30 minutes later, it’s gone. And I will sit there with a grin on my face, not sure what I’ve just listened to, what it may mean, but that I have experienced something pure. And that’s hard to pin down, and across their albums while the meaning may be elusive, even as Be Your Lady’s piano explodes into feedback, noise and a slew of vocals, I know that I am alive.

So – if we are to try while appraising this brilliant album – what the hell are Young Fathers? Song to song, it may be possible to divine something approaching genre. But nothing is certain from track to track, but it ends up feeling like it was all meant to be together. I can’t think of anyone else that really does this, though I will return to my favourite reference point: Genesis Owusu. I know we did this in reverse too, but I am now wondering how much Young Fathers he listened to? Because while Owusu has more funk and soul, courtesy of his tight musical collective, there is so much to see parallel here. But if its frustrating (not to me) for some to try and work out what this band is, it seems the music press, and platforms don’t seem to know either. People think they’re hip-hop (nope), noise (sometimes), rock (honestly). To me they are exploring the outer edges of pop music. It may not sound like a lot of pop you know, but it’s 3 minute songs, with song structure, and a group that really wants to push things to the limit, but they have a world and it’s very much their own. Even if no one can categorise it, who cares? Radio stations can’t even work out if they play them.

There is also a tangential link to Episode 30’s Rozi Plain album, Prize. While it may seem incongruous, the lyrical metaphor and opacity of Heavy Heavy leaves you searching for your own answers, as some of the best music only manages. Is Rice about slavery? Racism? Is Tell Somebody about mental health? Joy? Pain? It isn’t clear, but perhaps like last month’s album, it doesn’t really matter. Young Fathers are often elusive about their meanings, but if it works, it works? It’s refreshing not just to need to work to unpick lyrics, but to not still be sure 25 listens in.

I have also spent some time again with Dead, and their other two albums, 2015’s White Men Are Black Men Too, and the aforementioned Cocoa Sugar, and they have been every bit as fantastic as the first and newest were. Dead was – running to it last weekend – way more familiar than I’d have thought it would be. Music really does still have that ability to transport you to a time and place. For Dead, I’m not 100% sure what I was doing in 2014 when the album came out in February – probably being seasonably dismal – but an album that I remember felt way out of my comfort zone at the time, but nonetheless memorable, felt at turns familiar and also fresh. Get Up in particular, leapt out, its off-key drone still sounding really new, angry, edgy and vital. It’s a rare feat managing that after so long, but perhaps the genre-hopping/avoiding music they make means this is all the more possible. Through the albums, as a whole lineage – and I listened to all 4 in a row one Sunday – they feel so cohesive together, all this big universe that they have made their own. In a post-genre world, how does a band like Young Fathers fit in?

Finally, there’s the videos, shot almost all in non-widescreen, another incongruous but seemingly bold statement in a pushback against the general music ‘machine’. They are striking, from older ones such as Low’s washed-out colours, or the visual attack of Shame to the new album’s visceral I Saw or Tell Somebody, to the dry humour of Toy’s casting of children as leaders, despots and maniacs. As their music does, the visual medium shows us just how vibrant and full of ideas they are, making things they want, the way they want. And we can all celebrate that.

Sit back, give in to the music, and feel the joy.

Posted in Album of the Month, Music chat, New Albums, New Tunes, Playlists, podcast, Spin it or Bin It, Uncategorized

Episode 30 | Rozi Plain | Prize

Ep. 31 | Young Fathers | Heavy Heavy This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

In Part 1 we speak in depth about Young Fathers latest album 'Heavy Heavy' and how it packs such a punch in 32 minutes.  In Part 2 we play 'Spin it or bin it?', the theme this month is the curious anomaly that is 'Post Genre'.Part 1 | Album of the Month | Young Fathers | Heavy HeavyIt's Guy's choice this month and we return back to an artist that we spoke about 9 years ago when they released their debut 'Dead'. Across 3 previous releases, Young Fathers have secured near universal critical acclaim, yet little commercial success. Is Heavy Heavy the album that will change this. It looks like it. But that doesn't mean this is a collection of easy listening pop tunes. We discuss what this is, what we love and the live experience.  If you know them enjoy, if you don't dig in!Go listen to the album – Here Go watch some videos – Here Go buy some of their stuff – HereA few Heavy Heavy things that we highly recommend checking out;Unmuted Unmastered Podcast – HereLine of Best Fit interview – HereSome live performances – Here and Hereand HerePart 2 | Spin It or Bin It | Post GenreWhat the hell is post genre? In this discussion we prove that we're really not sure!Guy chose – Mantra by Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul Nolan Chose – BTSTU by Jai Paul Joey chose – B.O.B. by Outkast David chose – L'Elephant by Tom Tom Club A 16 track Post Genre playlist (4 tracks each) can be found – Here (this is a good one!)Next MonthJoey brings Kelela's  'Raven' for Album of the Month and we play 'Spin It or Bin It?' but what will be the theme?We've been writing a blog for years come and have a look –'ve been writing the blog for years come and have a look –
  1. Ep. 31 | Young Fathers | Heavy Heavy
  2. Ep 30 | Rozi Plain | Prize
  3. Ep 29 | Ab-Soul | Herbert
  4. Ep 28 | 2022 Top 10 Albums + Top Tracks
  5. Ep 27 | Sudan Archives | Natural Brown Prom Queen

In Part 1 we speak in depth about Rozi Plain’s new album ‘Prize’. It’s a curious, warming gem of an album that really needs to be talked about. In Part 2 we play ‘Spin it or bin it?’, the theme this month is Protest Music.

Part 1 | Album of the Month | Rozi Plain | Prize

David’s choice this month is an artist that he has a long relationship with, Rozi Plain. Rozi was new to the rest of us so we were all playing catch up. I can’t remember an album that needs to be talked about (in real life, with human beings) as Prize.  You will hear me processing what I actually feel about the album, live, while we discuss it. I think I probably come out of the discussion with a slightly different conclusion to the one that I had at the start. All good albums get better with more attention but this one absolutely demands it.

Please, please, please go and give it a listen. I think most people will find something that they love about this album.

  • Go listen to the album – HereorHere
  • Go watch some videos – Hereor Here
  • Go buy some of Rozi’s stuff – Here

We mention a few things that we’d highly recommend checking out, so here are the links;

  • The James McMahon podcast interview / chat with Rozi – Here
  • Sophie Walker’s Guardian album review – Here
  • Pitchfork album review – Here
  • Konstantinos Papis’s interview for Our Culture – Here

Part 2 | Spin It or Bin It | Protest Music

We all pick a track based on a theme, present the track and ask the simple question, Spin it or Bin it? The theme this month is a simple one ‘Protest Music’. There are no limitations or rules this month other than, as always, we try to bring new music or a new context to each other.

  1. Guy chose – ‘Take the Power Back’  by Rage Against the Machine
  2. David Chose – ‘Ship Building’ by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
  3. Joey chose – ‘Reagan’ by Killer Mike
  4. Nolan chose – Four Women’ by Nina Simone

A 16 track Protest Music playlist (4 tracks each) can be found – Here

Next Month

Guy brings Young Fathers ‘Heavy Heavy’ for Album of the Month and we play ‘Spin It or Bin It?’ with Post-Genre tracks.

We’ve been writing a blog for years come and have a look –