Monday, 19 March 2012

Michael Kiwanuka's 'Home Again'

This British musician offers a fresh injection (and for some, introduction) of soul into the charts. Recognition in the BBC's Sound of 2012 Poll has evidently led Kiwanuka to the bright lights of fame and the ever important airplay. His jam packed festival timetable this year includes Bestival,
Liverpol's Sound City, Latitude and naturally, Radio 1's Big Weekend which just goes to shows how high in demand this new talent is.

Opening with track 'Tell Me a Tell' is a fantastic and simplistic introduction about what this artist and his music represent. Soul, country and blues. With heavy accents on upbeat vocals, a subtle use of soft brass and the flurry of polite flutes as well as brushes on drums a genre is defined in seconds. There's a real rush that the verse provides which contrasts against the coolness and release of the chorus ('Goooood gooooood lovin').

First single 'I'm Getting Ready' is one which breaks up the average grafters day as it floats through your radio speakers against the background of Swedish House Mafia and Katy Perry. The swung guitar rhythms and swishing of the snare on drums is delightfully refreshing, meanwhile Kiwanuka's mature and rich vocals transcend his years by about two decades. The next single which features on the album, 'Home Again' is a heavily guitar-fill filled track. Strings here are not an understatement but a necessity to chunk out the layers and emphasise the chorus on 'One day I know I'll be home again'. I'm glad however, that the producers and Kiwanuka have kept it relatively simple to reflect its bluesy roots.

As the album moves through soulful tunes including acoustic guitar licks, flute flurrys and more off beat rhythms, tracks to listen out for include 'Bones', a bluesy love song with saloon styled piano and irresistible backing vocals. Its horse and cart styled rhythm with extra swooning on the vocals allows the song to propel itself as well as pick up the pace of the album.

'Always Waiting' is a darkly charming track which delicately balances the effects to allow a softness on the acoustic guitar part. Minor chords interject the upbeat guitar licks whilst a troubled trombone slides in and out of the orchestration to add extra sincerity and loneliness. A lack of lyrics in the chorus adds an air of hopelessness. All in all, I consider this track to contain many elements that pull the fundamental intention of hopelessness, loneliness and acceptance together.

For something a bit different, skip to track 'I wont Lie' for it's impressive brass and instrumental interjections that swamp the vocals. It sort of reminds me of a Christmas track. The primary focus appears to be on the grandeur nature of the orchestration and creating a big sound whilst the vocals play a secondary part. Furthermore, I don't feel that the vocal line is that strong or catchy but it certainly stands out on the album.

Finishing off, 'Worry Walks Beside Me' is an electric guitar accompanied track that shuffles the album to a close. Not only is the vocals lazy but it's a great sing along song when drunk and I think has potential as a single. The pain and recognition of blues here is evident. A slight downer to finish an album on, but a track that certainly makes an impression.

To have succeeded in such a stark genre in today's chocca-dub-block styles that are flittering around, Kiwanuka goes to show just how some time out is desperately needed by some of us.

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