Artist: Michael Kiwanuka
Record Label: Polydor
Recommended Tracks: Track 9 – “Hero” , Track 10 – “Hard To Say Goodbye”
British artist Michael Kiwanuka released a new soulful album titled KIWANUKA. It has fourteen-tracks and infuses soul and psychedelic rock influences. It focuses on topics that are personal to Michael, such as his own mental health and political issues. Sonically, it’s an impressive album that definitely shows that Michael isn’t afraid to be experimental with his sound. A lot of the songs on this record are longer than 3 minutes, making it a duration of 51 minutes. There are a lot of instrumental breaks in the songs, giving each song a feeling of variety and not as though you are listening to the same song each time. He does a nice job at allowing his music to settle and simmer rather than rushing, which gives a sense of payoff when you finish listening. I rate it a four out of five.
The first recommended track, “Hero” starts off with a soft and echoing strum of guitar strings before it’s met with drums. One nice detail that’s implemented in this song is the use of violins behind the guitar during the chorus. Toward the end of the song, the strings become fuzzy and distorted giving it a psychedelic flair to the overall sound. Personally, I think this song is the best off of the album because of its intricate layering of different instruments at the halfway point of the song. Lyrically, it seems that Michael is singing about the pressing issue of police brutality and gun violence in our society. He sings, “please don’t shoot me down…it’s on the news again…I guess they killed another.”
The second recommended song, “Hard To Say Goodbye” begins with almost two minutes of instrumentals before shifting. There’s a slight pause before Michael begins to sing over the subtle guitar strums. At times, his vocals are echoed by what sounds like a choir behind him. In this song, his voice is very calming and doesn’t change in pitch very much. Overall, it’s a nice song to listen to, especially because of the instrumentation. The guitars buzz during the chorus and add a layer of richness to the sound.
KIWANUKA is a good album and I think that Michael Kiwanuka will continue to grow in popularity, especially because of this body of work that shows his talent. It’s a cohesive collection of songs and really showcases his focus on production-value.