Young Fathers is a Scottish indie rock trio that I’ve been following for a bit now. Their newly released album, “Heavy Heavy” is exemplary of the group’s creative spirit, and it’s one of the more unique projects I’ve heard so far in 2023. Despite the name, the album tries to bring with it uplifting energy encouraging dance and a celebration of life.
Take a look at album opener “Rice” for example. The percussive groove on the track alone is enough to get your body moving. Towards the end of the song, the ensemble of voices chanting the chorus feels like a concert with everybody invested in ramping the energy up towards its climax.
By far the most powerful segment of the song, though, is the chant “these hands can heal”. You can’t help but join in the power of this phrase, and I think there was a missed opportunity to bring this chant back at the end of the track. Instead, the chant on the back end of the track calls listeners to “see the turning tide”. This feels less powerful, though it does more cleanly fit with the theme of sticking through the rough patches of life.
I need to eat more riceLyrics from “Rice” by Young Fathers.
It’ll take some time
Gonna take some time
Gotta bide my time
The second track on the album is where Young Fathers seems to get into some thematic consistency. “I Saw” doubles down on the message of waiting out the rough times to get to better ones. At least here, they actually get into the source of these bad patches: abuse, especially parental abuse. Wordplay is improved considerably here, even if the music itself is more repetitive and harder to really get into.
“I Saw” also foreshadows one of “Heavy Heavy”‘s biggest flaws: not knowing how to end. Again, the track ends with a chant that feels like it goes on a bit too long given the dynamic nature of the rest of the song. Here, it’s not a big deal, but on later tracks like “Sink or Swim” the energy dies off without feeling like an emotional resolution has been reached yet.
The rest of the album
While there are still great tracks left on “Heavy Heavy” the first half of the album–especially the first three tracks–is far more powerful than the latter half. A track like “Tell Somebody”, while it has a good message, has little uniqueness or clarity. It feels too direct, especially compared to the other tracks mentioned above.
“Ululation” is a pleasant embrace of two of the members’ West African histories, but it doesn’t blend all that well with the rest of the album tonally, not just linguistically. It’s an elongated interlude trying to be its own track. “Sink Or Swim”, meanwhile, feels derivative of the prior tracks on the album, as if the song was created after the album’s singles came out. It sounds shallower and more cheaply produced. “Holy Moly” sounds like a track off of a JPEGMAFIA album as opposed to Young Fathers’ own style.
There’s a lot to like about “Heavy Heavy”. The great songs on the album are on repeat all the time on my playlists. However, the rest of the album feels incomplete and rushed. Some songs on the album did not need to be nearly as long as they were. Others either failed to recreate the celebratory sound of “Rice” or failed to create a rich, darker sound that compliments its lyrics.