james debate
james debate

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Genre Folk Rock
Label Polydor
Producers Danger Mouse

michael kiwanuka best new album 2019

In the space of a few years Michael Kiwanuka has gone from a relatively obscure musician dabbling in an array of genres somewhat unsuccessfully, to one of the hottest names in British music. The debut album was folksy and charming, and the follow-up layered and brooding. His third album Kiwanuka continues the evolution of the singer-songwriter with an album of much wider ambition, and a flawless quality of production to match.

As with his previous work, Kiwanuka here sounds timeless without feeling dated. The music is more polyphonic than ever, with complex orchestras of instrumentalists bringing his vision to vinyl. The lyrics, too, elicit a contemporary sense of angst that evokes as many memories of mid-century revolution as it does modern-day tensions. Kiwanuka has often been topical (without being overtly political) and here he delves deeper still into racial anxieties, self-doubt and spirituality. Crucially, the songwriting is as brilliant as ever, and with producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse at the helm, it sounds as a tight and fully realised vision, with barely a detail amiss.

If I had one criticism of the previous album, Love & Hate, it was that it was relentlessly dour. Kiwanuka manages to add a bit more variety to the tracklist, and nowhere is this clearer than in the opening track and lead single You Ain't the Problem, a remarkably catchy, upbeat number which simultaneously manages to blend the spirit of retro soul with a fresh digital veneer.

The delicately orchestrated Piano Joint (This Kind of Love) and its mesmerising intro track provide one of the album's most atmospheric moments. Understated and raw, it is classic Kiwanuka. The album then offers yet another completely different flavour with Hero, a funky slice of classic rock that pays homage to the civil rights movement and brings to mind sounds of Jimi Hendrix in his heyday.

These different moods and styles keep the album fresh without feeling disparate or disjointed. It is a testament to Kiwanuka's talents that he can bring together all these different influences and make them all sound distinctly like a Kiwanuka song. Kiwanuka looks a likely album of the year contender, and marks another fine addition to the discography of one of the world's most talented musicians.

Must Listen :
You Ain't the Problem
Piano Joint

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