Soulful and raw, Londoner Michael Kiwanuka’s critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Home Again’ (April 2012) staked his claim on the list of great British singer-songwriters. As a body of work, Home Again was a genre-defying nod to the heritage names of soul, and reinforced the real strength of young British music talent.
Having taken a deep breath and relaxed into his musical approach, Kiwanuka is back, and has delivered his eagerly anticipated second album – and it packs a powerful punch. If his last album was about returning home again, this is about leaving it behind and stepping out – and finding himself outside his comfort zone. Love & Hate is an outward-looking, drenched with emotional density and rich, soulful production at the helm.
Two years in the making, the British Ugandan Londoner has worked with new talent and created a canvas which sees his vulnerability take centre stage. While previous comparisons have been made to the sensual jazzy folk-soul of Terry Callier or Otis Redding, in reality, this simmering, blues-inflected pop-soul offering, this masterpiece, takes the foundation of those artists and ignites the genre with new energy and thrill.
It’s no surprise that Kiwanuka cites the elaborate, expressive music of Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and John Lennon as influences, and when he speaks of what he loves about his heroes, (“The melancholy and the sheer honesty of Gaye. He doesn’t hide behind his lyrics”) he could so easily be describing himself.
Kiwanuka describes himself as being “obsessed” with the guitar growing up (and tells a great story about how seeing a documentary on Jimi Hendrix as a teen, and realising he was black, opened up something in him). Now, after countless accolades following his debut and providing support Adele on her 2011 live tour, he’s showing us exactly what he’s learned.