Young Guv seems to have come a little out of nowhere this year, and relative unknown with a confusing backstory and huge potential. When not Young Guv, Ben Cook play guitar in Canadian punk band Fucked Up or ghost writes material for Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson amongst others. Yep, you read that right.
Ripe 4 Luv isn't Taylor Swift, but then it sure isn't abrasive punk either. Instead it is part Prince, part-glossy 70s AOR but more than anything this is wonderful slightly psychedelic pop music. Alongside Ariel Pink and Blood Orange, Cook seems intent to recontextualised some of the best moments of pop and soul from the past 40 years or so, and the result is a treat.
At just 32-minutes long Ripe 4 Luv doesn't stick around for long, but it does a lot with that time. Opener Crushing Sensation pairs clipped guitars and a drum-machine rhythm with Cook's falsetto vocals and plenty of dreamy 'Oooh ooohs'. The title track feels like a cruise down a Californian highway as the sun sets, overdubbed vocals shimmering as the chorus rolls out. It's a restrained yet staggeringly warming listen.
Such moments of unadulterated pop joy contrast to the album's more experimental moments. Aquarian's fuzzy drum set rhythms and half-heard keyboards compliment the dream like vocals. Dear Drew is a urgent panic attack of clattered rhythms and vocal harmonics that feels like the intro to a bizarre early 80s sitcom that the world missed out on.
Ripe 4 Luv closes with the 7-minute plus Wrong Crowd, which is exactly the sort of swirling soul-influenced pop it feels like Young Guv is building to the whole time. Cook's delicate vocals tell the story of a man wrongly convicted of a robbery as he writes to his wife. It's bizarre and beautiful, and as it ends it is hard not to be confused by the rapidly paced slew of ideas you have just consumed. Ripe 4 Luv feels like it is halfway between a demo and a proper album - the ideas feel quickly created and yet at times the production is sublime. Like the best albums, it is both alienatingly different to everything else you will hear this year, and instantly enjoyable.
Ripe 4 Luv is released through Slumberland on 10 March. Available for pre-order from Amazon.co.uk on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].