Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar Review

Edinburgh’s Young Fathers are made up of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham “G” Hastings and have already experienced a great deal of acclaim for their dynamic Hip Hop and Pop sound. This has included a Mercury Prize win in 2014 when they were down as the little fancied underdogs and two acclaimed albums thereafter. Those first two albums were released within a year and very much hastened by their Mercury Prize success. In that sense, their second effort White Men Are Black Men Too felt like their debut and it allowed them to develop their sound with less pressure and attention than say… a second album would. With Cocoa Sugar they’ve had three years to hone their sound and see where they can take it.

With ‘In My View’ they demonstrate this to be a more expansive arrangement coupled with a crisp production. Scattered percussion paces with drive at the heart of the track with vocal instrumentation accentuating each beat. Such a prominent rhythm accommodates the three separate vocal parts from each member for a fine balance powerful lead vocals and the darker tones of spoken words. Yet again, they bend and marry genres and styles to their will naturally for what is an immaculate piece of music you won’t hear the like of this year. ‘Tremolo’ features a whirring, static energy which buzzes for the duration of the track. From this comes the delicate percussion, vocal rounds and resonant organs. It is a subtle track for which the vocal rounds lend itself well to a song about being lost in life’s various darknesses. ‘Wire’ is a rapid track with a rapid beat highlighted with chiming electronica mirroring it. With pitch shifted and distorted vocals, it is akin to some of the final tracks released by the Knife back in 2013 albeit a more condensed version.

‘Toy’ opens with a frantic beat and opaque, whirring foundation which runs through the song. It is a biggest barometer of the groups improvement with the arrangement largely similar to their previous work, but here the instrumentation appears sharper, focused and purposeful. This makes the subject matter about the aftermath of a broken relationship sound all the more pithy and pointed. With tracks like ‘Border Girl’ shift and move with ease via a deep, reverberating bass line and here vocal overtures are layered over these for a track with a lot of Pop sensibility applied in an unconventional way. That is the key word for this album; unconventional. They apply known melodies, hooks and sounds in their own style and bend them to their will. It is undoubtedly their most complete album and balances their songwriting talents with their production skill. They’ve set themselves to stand out from the crowd and leave it up to the listener to decide.

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar = 8.5/10

Owen Riddle

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