KIWANUKA | Michael Kiwanuka
funk soul brother
Once a decade, along comes a record that is so timeless, so immersive, so utterly compelling that it takes your breath away. This, the third LP from Michael Kiwanuka is one of those records. His first two – 2012 debut “Home Again” and its 2016 follow-up “Love & Hate” – aimed at greatness, but here on “KIWANUKA” he simply knocks it out of the park.
Born and raised in London’s Muswell Hill to Ugandan parents, Kiwanuka grew up a skateboarding kid on a diet of 90s indie rock, before discovering the great soul masters of Otis Reading, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers among others. It clearly left an impression, with “Living In Denial”, lead single “Hero” and opener “You Ain’t The Problem” sounding like they’ve been beamed in directly from superfly 1960’s Harlem. Thanks to savant producer Danger Mouse none of it sounds like treading old ground though – it’s more of a contemporary revival than a straight up period homage.
Even on its more downbeat moments there’s still an air of elation: “Piano Joint” takes the vibe of a late night smoky dive bar before morphing into a beautiful Bacharachian ballad, while the dazzling “I’ve Been Dazed” grows into a swelling, gospel choir-soaked hymn.
And oh my that voice. It’s the voice that elevates everything onto a higher plane. Effortless and soulful in equal measures – like liquid morning sunshine being poured into your ears.
Absolute soul-healing magnificence from start to finish. Dan Ashcroft
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