The Skinny's Album of 2023: Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Edinburgh's very own Young Fathers top our Albums of the Year poll – we take a closer look at the band's fantastic fourth album, Heavy Heavy

Feature by Anita Bhadani | 08 Dec 2023
  • Young Fathers

This year’s album of the year was a clear stand-out from the start. On Heavy Heavy, Edinburgh’s Young Fathers have captivated us once more, with a career-defining album radiating celebratory joy through its very soul. The title is described by the band on their Spotify bio in turn as encapsulating everything from a mood, to the bass notes that reverberate across the ten tracks, or the 'joyous burden' coming from the toll of living. Drawing from an eclectic range of genres, stylings and place are the calling card of Young Fathers, and on Heavy Heavy this is taken to ever greater heights. Soul meets folk meets hip-hop meets noise meets ululation in a smorgasbord of sound.

Each track exists almost as a world unto its own: the folksy blues of opener Rice to the synthscapes of Geronimo; the clashing drums of Be Your Lady and the gospel-like communal cry of Holy Moly. The lyricism can often be cutting in its beauty. 'Want me to turn water to wine / I’m so hollow inside when you push in the knife' is crooned sweetly on Be Your Lady. Elsewhere this poeticism is interpolated with humour: 'Sunset gremlin with a snidey-wee smile' is snarled on I Saw, before the undeniably catchy, tongue-in-cheek refrain of 'Brush your teeth / Wash your face'. It’s a very Scottish sensibility of not taking yourself too seriously, a levity and lightness that’s genuine and warm.

Elsewhere this warmth burns bright on Ululation, which sees Kayus Bankole’s close friend Tapiwa ‘Taps’ Mambo take to the mic to sing in the Zimbabwean language Shona, the lyrics speaking of excavating gratitude even in the midst of deep pain, finding healing through feeling. Heavy Heavy finds synergies in energy across cultures in a way that’s genuinely fresh and exciting.

Heavy Heavy doesn’t shy away from the heavy – the subject matter ranges from gold miners destroying natural resources in Africa (Rice) to the pressures of gendered expectations and the vulnerability in simply wanting to love and be loved (Be Your Lady). But it treats pain as not an end, but the start of something new. We are not fated or defined solely by tragedy: there is joy in life and it’s worth fighting for. Where sometimes life can feel bleak, Heavy Heavy offers a promise – joy comes part and parcel with the riotous messiness, pain and exhilarating rush of what it means to live today.

Heavy Heavy was released on 3 Feb via Ninja Tune