Young Fathers Are Bigger and Brighter Than Ever on 'Heavy Heavy'

BY Anthony BoirePublished Jan 31, 2023

"I want your shield! I want your weapon!" shout Young Fathers on "I Saw," the confrontational and energetic single that encapsulates the madcap, steely-eyed energy of their latest (and most uplifting) record, Heavy Heavy. The impossible-to-define, internationally-lauded trio find themselves in a strangely blissful mood here, channeling frustration into something else. 

Following in the footsteps of their fantastic 2015 sophomore record White Men Are Black Men Too and 2018's streamlined and slightly misunderstood third outing Cocoa Sugar, Heavy Heavy erupts in blinding climaxes full of tearful joy. While earlier efforts may have touched upon cathartic celebrations — take "Sirens" and "In My View" — Heavy Heavy is the explosion of positivity the group has been hinting at through their entire career. 

Things do take a darker turn after the first few massive, reverb-soaked singalongs — Young Fathers can't help themself but dive into a few introspective, politically-charged moments. However, even forays into the shadows like the shrieked opening of "Shoot Me Down" eventually give way to choir-infused outros.

Lo-fi elements mix with hi-fi clarity to create something alien but somehow entirely earthly; African rhythms, gospel swells and post-punk fervour commingle with shaggy jangle pop, the results blending seamlessly together. This collection of songs initially comes across as a more pop-oriented step for the eclectic and experimental group, but upon revisits it reveals itself as a triumphant effort worthy of its own genre, an as-yet-unnamed holy combination of post-rock and gospel hip-hop. 

Heavy Heavy's cohesion — a celebration of the world coming back together — is nearly its undoing, as the tracks sometimes feel a bit samey compared to previous grab-bag releases. But it's a small miracle that the band manage to pull it off — hints of Fugazi, TV on the Radio and Tricky can't help but work their way into the group's sound, rounding out a purposefully rough but well-rounded texture. Heavy Heavy may be a little too sweet for long-time listeners, but its massive choruses, strong hooks and ecstatic sound too timely and too powerful to deny. 
(Ninja Tune)

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