21 October 2015

Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too

The return of the 2014 Mercury Prize winners! Young Fathers are a Scottish-by-way-of-Nigeria-and-Liberia-via-Ghana hip-hop band who manage to create a sound which is unlike any other in the hip-hop game. Managing to sound both minimalist and huge at the same time is no easy feat yet these boys manage to pass it off no problem. I blogged their first album last year, where, despite the odds (IE people thinking I'd hate it), I gave it a respectable 9/10 due to sounding unlike anything I'd heard before - you can click here to read that particular blog. This time round, they're back with a new album, which I've listened to, so here is the review.

I've already gone over the backstory for the band in their previous blog so I'm pretty much just going to launch straight into this. It's pretty much a continuation of their last album but with a few more tricks up their collective sleeves, which makes for an interesting journey.

The first song is "Still Running" which has an interesting intro - slight chimes and a gentle bass with drum patterns that sound slightly tribal. Vocals are gentle and soulful. The music seems to get more full during the chorus where a guitar effect can be heard. It's an interesting album opener - usually, the first song jumps at you and grabs you by the throat. This one invites you in and gives you a cup of tea and a hobnob (for the benefit of non-UK readers, a hobnob is a brand of cookie which is quite popular). Awesome all the same, but in a different way. This isn't music for the gym or for getting ready to going out to, this is proper relaxation stuff, the kind of thing that rewinds you after a hard day.

"Shame" soon follows - that's the name of the song BTW, not saying I'm embarrassed by anything. It's quite mid-paced and a bit more percussion this time round. Vocals are forceful but still in tune. Calling someone out, it lets the subject of it's ire know they're not happy with them. Music is comprised of what are sure to be the trademarked minimalist melodies the band will no doubt be known for. Great song. Oh, BTW...

Couldn't resist it!

"Feasting" sounds ominous with a low rumbling opening and low group vocals. Thudding percussion too which gives way to group shrieks. Some really good music here with what sounds like keyboards in the background. The whole thing sounds more like a free-form avant-garde performance as opposed to anything resembling normal music but it's great, so who cares?

"27" has a twinkling intro before going into some kind of groove thing with it's percussion, The bass sounds like Godzilla playing with an elastic band, which sounds fun! More group vocals which, again, adds an atmosphere to the song unlike any other musical act. These guys sound different to what's out there at the minute.

"Rain Or Shine" is next, and it has a swift thumping bass-and-percussion which, for reasons I'm not quite sure about, reminds me of post-punk. I guess it's the minimalism thing again. Soulful vocals give way to narrations and it's an interesting contrast. You can hear the bands influences on this one and unlike some other bands who are tribute acts, these definitely add their own shine to things. This song is quite catchy too! Bit of an abrupt finish though.

"Sirens" seems to bring things back to a slower pace with it's violin intro and chiming. The intro turns out to be the whole song, which is a bit of a disappointment but only because this band are better than that. Mind, the vocals are good and very catchy as well.

"Old Rock And Roll" is where we are told that "white men are black men too" amid some seriously funky percussion rhythms and minimalist melodies. Quite a bit of swagger in these beats too. The melody sounds like it was played on a stringed instrument from the middle-east. Possibly - that's the vibe I get from this anyway.

"Nest" starts off witha violin (seriously, did one of the band get one for their birthday and are trying to include it in everything or something?) before going into some smooth beats, piano riffs and group vocals. Another great song,

"Liberated" sounds like someone left the snare button on the drum machine pressed down, it's relentless! More frantic piano music in the background as well as group vocals a-plenty. Sounds like it was an awesome party at wherever this song was recorded!

"John Doe" continues the mid-paced theme, with whistling amid some interesting melodies. It's not too bad doesn't really stick with me, despite some good vocals. Sorry.

"Dare Me" opens with an organ and a soulful vocal about "what did you have for breakfast, little man?" this goes on for a few bars before launching into the kind of big, lurching drum beat that was prominent on the first album. Maybe this song was intended for that album but didn't make the final cut? Either way, it's another gem in the Young Fathers treasure chest. Things slow down towards the end and once again - it's an abrupt finish!

"Get Started" is a slow one to end the album on, but a good one. Nice piano and percussion amid some interesting melodies. Not too bad, certainly an adventure.

So, what did we learn from the latest opus from Young Fathers? We learnt that this is their best album to date. Musically, they've came on leaps and bounds from the last album, which, although was excellent, seemed to have an over-reliance on big sounding looped beats. Whilst this certainly worked at the time, it was obvious that something special would have to be done They did this and passed with flying colours. I can recommend this album to anyone, regardless of what your favourite genre is.

10/10 - This is proof there is a God.

Top Track: Rain Or Shine.

Chris J.

This album is available on iTunes.


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