2018 was a great year for music. Distilling all the excellent releases into our Top 5 Album of the Year lists was no easy feat. A few artists popped up multiple times across our lists (Atmosphere, Noname, Kids See Ghosts, Four Fists) however, none more so than Scotland’s own Young Fathers with their 3rd record Cocoa Sugar. It made perfect sense then, as a collective, to name Cocoa Sugar the 2018 Southsiders Album of the Year. What follows is our discussion and answers leading from the question;
“What makes Cocoa Sugar such a great album and why do you think it was featured more or less across the board in our end of year lists?”
Thomas: First and foremost, it’s pleasing to the ear.
Craig: It has incredible unity.
David: Excellent replay value. Each time there’s stuff I initially missed.
Jason: I agree. As we’ve mentioned before, is it safe to say it’s their most accessible album to date?
Thomas: I think so. I also feel that it’s genre-defying to an extent.
David: Completely agree.
Craig: Probably is, and that’s impressive considering it’s also quite experimental. Not exactly what I was expecting but I’d recommend this above their other projects to newcomers.
David: Parts don’t feel like hip-hop at all. More soul music maybe?
Thomas: Gospel too, obviously.
David: Yeah, hugely. One other thing is, it has the advantage of being so compact. A tight 36 mins means virtually no wasted space.
Craig : Favourite song…?
Jason: ‘Holy Ghost’. The lyricism is great. Full of vivid religious iconography. And the production is great. Very minimal like a lot of the others but builds towards the end of the song with the layered vocals really well. Great song man.
Craig: One of the more comprehensively hip-hop tracks… maybe? Tremolo for me.
Jason: Yeah I’d say ‘Holy Ghost’ is the most hip-hop out the bunch.
David: ‘Holy Ghost’ is excellent and ‘Tremolo’ has grown on me. Can I cheat and go for ‘Fee Fi’/’In My View’ as a double? Flows so nicely together.
Jason: Aye, a lot of tracks function as bridges in between songs really nicely.
Craig: I first heard the album on the train home when I lived in Ayrshire, and it was a shitty day, and ‘Tremolo’ took me somewhere nice.
David: But if I have to go for one track, ‘Holy Ghost’.
Craig: ‘Holy Ghost’ pulling away.✝️👻
Thomas: ‘Toy’ is ridiculously good.
David: ‘Wow’ is a weak point for me, not sure if anyone else agrees?
Jason: I know what you mean with that.
Thomas: ‘Lord’ is astonishingly impressive.
Craig: Yeah, you need patience with ‘Wow’. And I don’t always have it.
Thomas: The audacity of that song – it’s huge.
Jason: I think a lot of tracks seem purpose built to carry a sonic aspect through to the next track or a theme rather than operate as another bold single though.
Craig: Which is crucial in a short album.
Jason: Overall it helps the albums status but not the singular elements as much.
David: Do people feel the experimental aspect of it is what made it AOTY? It beat out some pretty incredible stuff; Atmosphere, KIDS SEE GHOSTS etc.
Tiernan: I always love how catchy the songs’ hooks are yet they still manage to throw loads of discordance to keep it fresh.
Thomas : It’s a worthy winner.
Jason: The lyrics are very dense and ambiguous. I think every other listener could take some different away from their songs.
Thomas: THIS. 100%.
Tiernan: I think in that regard it can appeal to the general listener but also to a music nerd.
Jason: Great balance; as evident from the crowds at their live shows.
Tiernan: I will say seeing them live really brought it home. Such a great energy and translates well from the record.
Thomas: The writing is top notch too – “The older you get, the colder you get.” I feel that completely.
Jason: “Salty pillar, philosophic polyfiller/ Deserted in the desert, turning sand into a mirror/ Fables and cables, turning tablets into tables/ I’m outchea, empty cradle in the stable…” One of my favourite few bars of the year.
Craig: What about the structure of the songs? They’re all very different, aye?
Jason: Aye. Definitely.
David: Yeah. Gives the album a unique, unreplicable vibe. You’d know it instantly.
Thomas: Like I said, audacious. These dudes have a natural talent for melody.
Craig: That they do.
Thomas: They way they dovetail and use their voices…
Jason: I think one of the best assets of their songs, especially on this album, is their ability to build both in production and vocally. It almost sounds choir-like towards the end of certain songs which considering the strong blasphemous themes, it’s pretty moving.
David: Choir is a great word. The gospel aspects run through the whole album.
Tiernan: Emotion really comes through I’d say.
Tiernan: Production is solid.
Tiernan: Not too rigid but still great sound.
Thomas: But also deliberately muted at times. It’s powerful.
Jason: They don’t seem as though they want to be anything other than themselves. Very much in their own lane. They stand out from the rest because of this. Impervious to trends in music by the sounds of it.
Tiernan: They actually put a sticker on their last album saying ‘explicitly file under pop’. They want to be heard but also don’t sway to any trends and don’t sound like they will.
Craig: Lots of searching for the light. I love how they set the gospel vibe up in ‘Tremolo’ then you get a tiny verse – “Climbing on a ladder to redeem my fortress/ Poor with money, but I know what love is/ Separate me from the vultures”. Then it’s back to the refrain. Very quirky.
Jason: It seems religion, race and sexuality are key components in a Young Fathers album. This being no different. And unlike other artists they don’t come off preachy talking about these subjects. Not just production but lyrically and thematically a great balance.
David: Where do we see them going next? Think they’ll get more of a mainstream following off this? After all, the SOUTHSIDERS endorsement is highly coveted.
Jason: I wouldn’t say blow up but the venues they play certainly are getting bigger and selling out quicker.
Tiernan: They were heavily featured in Trainspotting 2 so I think they’ll have garnered a lot of new fans from that.
David: Still need to see that.
Thomas: They are revered in the right circles.They are only going one way. They have a conveyor belt of catchy tunes. ‘In My View’, ‘Border Girl’, ‘Picking You’… Very palatable songs. For mainstream ears.
Craig: Addictive, smooth, mature.
David: I’d be super interested to know who they cite as their influences in rap.
Tiernan: Just an auditory ride from start to finish. Feel like they leave it all out there and don’t compromise their sound. Uniqueness while still managing to be infectiously catchy.
Thomas: Final thought: Young Fathers make substantive, life-affirming music. If they are going after bigger audiences, more power to them.