Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
When Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka’s critically acclaimed debut, didn’t really hit the commercial heights that its quality deserved, he squirreled himself away from the limelight and took his time over its follow-up. Now, four years on, the Londoner returns with Love & Hate, assisted by super-producer Danger Mouse, and influenced by some of the genuine greats of the soul scene: Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, and John Lennon. That break from the cycle of touring and recording, plus the addition of a new team and change in focus has made a big impact on Kiwanuka’s sound.
Without a hint of pressure the album kicks off with the near ten minute opus ‘Cold Little Heart’, which grows and evolves from an instrumental first half into something powered by the 29 year old's voice in the second five minutes. It’s a puff of the chest and a stake in the ground: I’m here and I’m good. Also showing the new depth of production that layers emotion and passion through the songs. ‘Black Man In A white World’ has a choral refrain that’s singalong ready, but a message that hits home hard in 2016. The terrific title track melds acoustic guitar strumming with reverb dripping backing vocals, and a slow, slinky beat. It’s soul music where the guts of 1976 meet the styling of 2016. ‘Father’s Child’ lightens the sound a little but still packs a punch, whereas ‘One More Night’ enlists the spirit of Amy Winehouse’s best work.
Where his debut was partially hidden in the shadows of the past, Love & Hate embraces that soul legacy while stretching for something new and brave; something just within reach. All power to Kiwanuka for trying, and succeeding, with something pretty darn different.