A Healthy Debut
Young & Sick (Nick Van Hofwegen) might be best known for the artwork he’s produced for other artists, but damn can the man play. His eponymous debut album is chill, expertly produced and unusually thoughtful. Some albums just hit the ears a little harder, regardless of volume, and this is one of them.
Imagine a vastly slowed down, spaced-out Jamiroquai or Chromeo and you might have a glimmer of what Young & Sick sounds like. The synths are present in force, and Hofwegen delivers his lyrics with some of the same fluid aplomb of the other bands. But where similar projects might amp up volume and complexity, Young & Sick takes a step back. Nearly every song on the album makes incredibly effective use of dead space. Silence is used instrumentally, supplementing some already minimalist composition and giving some extra oomph to the percussion. Those pauses also add a bit of nodding syncopation to songs like opening toe-tapper “Mangrove.”
Old-school R&B and jazz influences also give the album some depth. Hofwegen did his homework, and those extra dimensions carry songs like “Gloom,” which thrives on a background of brushed percussion and saxophone stings.
But the vocals are undeniably the best part of the package. Hofwegen’s layered harmonies are universally warm and poignant, and mesh perfectly with the calm, down-tempo vibe of the album. Even the high falsetto on “Glass” feels effortless and laid-back. His lyrics are also superb and often clash (in interesting ways) with the warm tone of Young & Sick. Take “Heartache Fetish” for example. Opening lines “Slip into my drink / Sneak into my veins / And knock me out cold” are sung with doo-wop assurance, but get you wondering what the hell the song’s really about. Finally, Hofwegen seems to have a god-given talent for crafting hooks. “Ghost of a Chance” has one of the most gorgeously listenable refrains we’ve heard in a very long time. Put all that together, and you’ve got an absolutely irresistible debut.