The predecessor album, ‘Home again’, was one of the favourite of all summertime albums for this writer and thus the new recording was approached without not a little trepidation, Happily, any doubts that may have lingered proved unfounded and the new album has its own clear identity and stands out in its own right. If anything, the tone is darker this time round from Michael Kiwanuka, with personal questions of identity seemingly uppermost in the singer-songwriter’s mind, but the universal influences that so enchanted in ‘Home again’ are once again present. These include the orchestrations and social commentary of Nina Simone with the production sound of Chicago’s Cadet label, the folk-soul hues of Windy City native Terry Callier, and the improvised vocals of Marvin Gaye among others. However, Kiwanuka is firmly his own man and that comes through on the album’s opus, ‘Black man in a white world’, that could be the soundtrack to a thousand tales of injustice. the infectious groove and handclaps help propel the omnipresent subject matter.
Pared down instrumentation is one additional feature of the second album with the use of strings understated as on the soulful ballad, ‘Place I belong’, while gospel tinges emerge on ‘Rule the world’. Another impressive quality is that of quiet introspection and this is a feature of ‘Father’s child’ and ‘I’ll never love’, that could have come straight off Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ period. Not all the music, however, is as bleakly framed with, ‘One more night’, possessing a mid-1970s neo-Motown meets the Hi sound rhythm section feel and the lengthy title track is an obvious candidate for single release.
In sum, an extremely well thought and expertly executed release from a singer who deserves to be heard by a significantly wider audience, and one who may well catch on in the United States if given sufficient promotion.
Tim Stenhouse rating 4/5
The young Michael Kiwanuka is back with a gem offering: “Love & Hate”.
The opening track “Cold Little Heart”, with its long instrumental intro of over 4 minutes and the stupendous backing vocals is only the start of a love affair with this man’s music.
Michael Kiwanuka strides into the listeners’ mind with a bow and arrow piercing the heart through and through. Marvellous production by Dangermouse, Inflo and Paul Butler, makes the album a treasure trove full of soft nuances that deserve to be listened to attentively. Then follows track 2, the clever “Black Man in a White World”, musically perfect, with simple yet striking lyrics and voice that would melt even titanium.
Michael Kiwanuka is part of Communion Records stable which, in itself, is part of Communion Music, an incredible music company founded by musicians and based in London and New York (Brooklyn).
Hat off to Communion Records then for snatching the talent of this great guy that is Michael Kiwanuka. I am in awe!
Oh and by the way: Michael hasn’t just written all the tracks, but he also plays guitar, bass and piano on them!
“Falling” is a mellow, heart-wrenching track: listen to Michael’s raucous voice, full of promise and pain at the same time.
The title track “Love & Hate” catches one, draws one in, almost like in a vortex. The strings arrangements are simply faultless.
Although very young, Michael has come a long way, a North London dude, working along with the likes of Chipmunk and Bashy, before moving onto his own path, signing with Communion Records in 2011.
Michael has versatility and spark of the genius: he supported Adele on her 2011 tour, has played various venues and last month performed at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park.
“One more night” has beautiful saxophone playing on it, whilst “I’ll never love” is melancholic to the core, striking words for a track that deserves to be a single!
“Rule the World” is a hymn against solitude or perhaps a cry for some peace of mind and peace in one’s heart? It is this diversity that makes this album one of the best I have listened to so far this year.
I could make a few comparisons here, but Michael’s way of singing and lyricism is unique. What would be the point of making comparisons when it is clear this man is a true artist, a genuine musician and, most of all, a fantastic raconteur!
I could listen to “Love & Hate” for hours on end because each time something else, something new will arise and surprise me and lead me into a fresh thought and path.
I am going to try to catch Michael for an interview soon, so watch this space.
Favourite track = “Cold Little Heart”
Erminia Yardley rating 5/5