Album review: Kiwanuka - Love & Hate
PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 August 2016
In the notoriously fickle world of pop, careers can easily be forged and destroyed inside a helluva lot less than four years (2012 chart-toppers Sam And The Womp, anyone?).
Yet despite the critical praise heaped on north Londoner Kiwanuka that same year for his debut Home Again, the young man has kept his head and waited til he’s good and ready to tell the next chapter. And boy, is it good.
Where his debut, while beautiful and soulful, was arguably a little flat and steadfastly ‘old soul’, Love & Hate rings the changes while keeping all that was good – including a voice that treads the tightrope between vulnerability and gritty soul.
Confidently opening with the 10-minute Cold Little Heart, he doesn’t utter a word for five minutes, unleashing a psychedelic swirl and heave of electric guitar and gospel(ish) vocals, before a beautifully downbeat but epic ballad unfurls.
Snappy handclaps herald Black Man In A White World, the album’s ‘70s soul-pop centerpiece. Kiwanuka channels a stark political message, strutting rhythm, strings and gospel-style backing singers for an arresting, addictive highlight Curtis Mayfield would be proud of.
Other facets of Kiwanuka’s canon are showcased in the dusky snap of One More Night, which borrows and runs with The Black Keys’ latest poppy blues aesthetic.
The link is Danger Mouse, who sat in the producer’s chair for the duo’s Turn Blue as well, and here ensures there’s a pleasing space around the instruments in the lounge-y soul of Place I Belong.
The title track updates Home Again’s careworn soul with an earworm backing vocal motif and a defiant statement of inner resilience that is truly uplifting, while Father’s Child – another mini-opus that stretches quivering strings, gospel vocals and soaring guitar noodles across seven minutes – exudes genuine ennui.
Love & Hate is pretty epic – an album worth the wait.
Rating: 4/5 stars