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Young Fathers get up and get down on their fifth album Heavy Heavy

"Heavy Heavy"

Release date: 03 February 2023
Young Fathers Heavy Heavy Album Artwork
03 February 2023, 13:30 Written by Will Yarbrough

The Scottish trio aren’t shy about doing the heavy lifting, but for such a big band they sure do sweat the small stuff.

Heck, it can take months for them just to settle on a track list. To be fair, obsessive studio tinkering hasn't slowed them down one bit. They've already won the Mercury Prize and Scottish Album of the Year (twice). It's just that on Heavy Heavy, they've got bigger fish to fry. "Being a son, brother, uncle, father figure / I gotta survive and provide," Alloysious Massaqoui sings before industrial drum slams push "Geronimo" howling off a cliff.

This is the first we've heard from Young Fathers in five years. That's the longest break the band have taken since they first got together at a hip-hop open mic in 2008, but a lot has happened to keep them busy. They've been through a global pandemic – not to mention four prime ministers – so it's not surprising that they've got a lot to get off their chest. Kayus Bankole rails against Brexit with more raspy, mad-eyed rapping, and "Shoot Me Down" busts through the door with chopped-up police sirens and concussive bass thuds.

In-house producer George "G" Hastings hasn't lost a taste for glitchy indietronica or grimy drum 'n' bass, but instead of chipping away, he threw all of their cares and frustrations and inspirations into the mix. While Young Fathers have always pulled from their roots, Heavy Heavy connects sounds from across the African diaspora. Gospel, spirituals, Mississippi fife and drum blues, even Senegalese ululations are all piled together, often on the same song. "Rice" builds to a boil full of saharan jangle, chanting drum circles and guitars that buzz like vuvuzelas.

All of that might make this album out to be rather *ahem* heavy. Even "Tell Somebody," which reads like a gentle plea, sounds like it belongs in a planetarium. With so many odds and ends, the last two tracks don't quite come together – but everything else absolutely sticks. "Sink or Swim" paddles upstream against bubbling anxiety by channeling a vibrant, downstream rush of giddy childlike wonder that reminds me of Animal Collective. Sure, these songs are dense, but they are dense, triumphant pop songs. They will make you want to get on up and turn it loose. "Hear the beat of the drum and go numb / Have fun," Massoqui pants above jubilant handclaps. Young Fathers might feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, but on Heavy Heavy they shake it off.

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