Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again

Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
Album Reviews

Immaculately crafted, confessional soulful laments.



Label: Polydor
Released: 12th March 2012
Reviewer: Martyn Young
Compare the winner of 2012’s BBC Sound Of poll with last year’s winner and you will find two artists who could not possibly be more different. 2011’s winner, Jessie J is a typically brash and outlandish pop star with a suitably mainstream pop sound while this years winner is the unassuming singer songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, an artist steeped in heritage with a rich appreciation of music at its simplest and most soulful. ‘Home Again’ is Kiwanuka’s debut album and it eschews any sort of modern production or cheap thrills in favour of immaculately crafted, confessional soulful laments. It is an extremely retro sound but a sound that is frequently compelling.

22-year-old Londoner Kiwanuka is something of a throwback to an earlier age, he appears to be a man out of time in 2012 with his love of classic soul and folk music, but there is definitely an appetite for music that is refined and from the heart. The success of Adele over the last year has shown that a mainstream audience can really connect to an artist whose remit is to write simple, yet hugely emotive, confessional songs and Kiwanuka, who toured with Adele last year, shares much of those same principals. Kiwanuka’s approach may be old fashioned but his is a sound full of warmth and subtlety.

‘Tell Me A Tale’ opens with some gorgeous jazz flute and the opening track is a glorious piece of breezy soul pop filled with trumpet and horns and all manner of interesting organic musical sounds. Credit must be given to producer Paul Butler of the Bees who harnesses perfectly Kiwanuka’s soulful croon with a lovely warm and enveloping sound that is established here. Lyrically the album is dominated by themes of spirituality and redemption, ‘I’m Getting Ready’ is a beautiful piece of meditative soul and ‘I Won’t Lie’ is particularly striking as Kiwanuka’s excellent voice is at its most impassioned and yearning as he proclaims “I won’t find peace all on my own."

The success of ‘Home Again’ is very much in its core of great songs, there is much to savour in Kiwanuka’s easygoing charm. However, the album does suffer from its relentlessly sedate pace. Fortunately, it is enlivened by frequent beguiling jazzy inflections, especially on the playful doo-wop shuffle of 'Bones'. The hushed reflection of the plaintive ‘Worry Walks Beside Me’'s piano waltz is perhaps ‘Home Again’'s best moment. Reverential in sound yet steeped in emotion it is an impressive piece that represents a promising debut album.

Michael Kiwanuka may be an artist who is in thrall to the past but over the course of his debut album he has shown that there is still a great deal of virtue in some simply great songs.
Rating: 7/10
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