21 March 2018

Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar


Young Fathers need no introduction if you've ever read these pages before. Since first coming to our attention with their Mercury Music Prize-winning debut DEAD, they have been on a mission to bring their own brand of sound to the masses, but without handing over one iota of their principals along the way.  Cocoa Sugar was released on 17th March 2018, preceded by the song "In My View" and it's their first release for new label Ninja Tune.  To be honest, I've been hyped for this release for ages.  No matter what they do, they always bring something new to the table.  Will they be able to hit a hat-trick with Cocoa Sugar?

01 – See How

Young Fathers start Cocoa Sugar in a minimalist style, which is in keeping with the previous releases.  “See How” uses sparse instrumentation, always hitting with a powerful impact.  You can guarantee that each note, each beat, each vocal has been laboured over and this is a beautiful song.  There is a natural, organic build to "See How", which would raise any wound soul and spirit in such a beautiful way until it’s sudden ending.  The ending comes too soon for my tastes, but it doesn’t ruin the overall feeling of the song.

02 – Fee Fi

“Fee Fi” is a dirty little song, one that sounds as if it has been constructed, deconstructed and re-evaluated multiple times before this final version.  There are strange noises, vocals samples and loops that together with Young Fathers dropping subtle bombs all over it.  I love the strangeness of "Fee Fi", it reminds me a lot of Massive Attack in places, a perfect mixture of trip-hop and minimalism.

03 – In My View

I cannot praise “In My View” enough, ever since I first heard it I have had to hear it at least once a day.  This song about self-loathing, depression and servitude to an indifferent lover is an amazing song.  Musically, it’s one of the more complex songs on the album, it has that instant quality which makes it the stand out track of Cocoa Sugar.  I love everything about “In My View”, this is one of my favourite songs this year and I have no doubt that it’ll be in my end of year list.

04 – Turn

You might think that “Turn” would have a difficult job, following one of the best songs of 2018 so far.  In typical Young Father fashion, they ignore their previous work and focus on making a fantastic song.  It’s another minimal piece, one that keeps everything tight and focused.  “Turn” is just as important as “In My View”, maybe even more so for different reasons.  One thing that it’s not is a filler track, that is something you cannot level at Young Fathers with this track.

05 – Lord

“Lord” starts with the sound of a choir, with an uplifting passion behind the voices, against a sparse and harsh background.  The subtly behind those beautiful vocals, the harsh reality of the rapping and the gaps between the music is uplifting.  I love the minimalist nature of “Lord”, it’s another example of Young Fathers at their best, but keeping everything tight!

06 – Tremolo

“Tremolo” is all about wanting to escape reality, need to have the soul reduced to a painless state and to leave the world for a little while.  The further you get into this song, the less that is going on.  I love their “Less is more” approach, they do so much with the bare minimum of music.  This is a beautiful piece, one that gives so much, leaving you feeling like you’ve been beaten up for hours on end.

07 – Wow

“Wow” bring back some energy to the music, but it’s just a sparsely populated, but this time with the vocals taking a backseat.  There are samples, screams and a slow drawl of a man who is lost in the moment.  This is a song that will get people moving but will also be one that people will dissect for years to come.  It’s a song that brings out a different reaction each time it’s played, but all of them have been positive.

08 – Border Girl

“Border Girl” is a song which reminds me of the bluesman extraordinaire, Son of Dave with its beatbox/vocal looping beginning.  There is an organic growth behind this number, which serves the band very well.  But after seven tracks of top draw genius, “Border Girl” feels like a rest bite.  It’s not a bad number, but it’s the first not to capitalise on the previous number.

09 – Holy Ghost

“Holy Ghost” is a song about having something inside you, something which is almost religious that you feel like your cursed/blessed with the spirit of the Christian deity.  This song is a track which will go down well in a club or at one of their shows, but it’s not working for me in the format.  Again, much like “Border Girl”, it is not a step up from the first seven songs.  But it’s still a good song, just not an outstanding one.

10 – Wire

“Wire” has a nostalgic feeling for me, because it reminds me of songs from my youth.  It’s a minimalist rave song, steeped (whereby choice or coincidence) in the dance culture of the early 90's.  It’s also over in just under two minutes, which is a bit of a shame.  But I think they did the right thing, as it could have easily outstayed its welcome. Better to be memorable, then to fade before your eyes.

11 – Toy

“Toy” is an energetic number in terms of aggressive lyrics and attitude, but it keeps up the minimalist tone of Cocoa Sugar at the same time.  There is no fat on this song, it’s a trimmed beast of a song, with one of the catchiest rhythms of the whole record.  Such a great song.....

12 – Picking You

After all their fine work, “Picking You” is the comedown track, the chill-out number to guide you home after an exciting, but sparse album.  They keep everything tight here, ending Coca Sugar with an emotional track about never being able to reach a good place.  The final chants of “you’ll never find your way to heaven” will ring in your ears long after this track ends, but it’ll not excite you.  To be honest, it feels like it ends awkwardly, which is a shame as it was shaping up to be a killer ending track.

Young Fathers can do with very little instrumentation what some back with 15+ member struggle to do, they create masterpieces that skin their hooks into your heart, refusing to let go.  When they are on fire, Cocoa Sugar can send the heart soaring high above this septic world, with minimalist odes of joy and pain. Sure, there are a few missed beats, a few songs which end too suddenly, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a great record.  Much like the album, this review is sort of short, but I think that is for the best.  Cocoa Sugar is another fine record from the Scottish trio, plus, “In My View” is going to be one of the most important tracks of 2018, watch this space.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention as well as my time, money and heart.

Top track – In My View

You can purchase Cocoa Sugar on Amazon here.

You can visit the Young Fathers website here.

You can follow the activities of Young Fathers on Facebook here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Spotify here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Deezer here.

You can stream Cocoa Sugar on Tidal here.

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