Album Reviews

Album Review: Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka (Polydor)

Sam Smith
Michael Kiwanuka - Solid Ground | A COLORS SHOW

After growing an enthusiastic fan base through his first two records Home Again and Love & Hate, UK soul man Michael Kiwanuka has decided to change things up slightly with his third offering, the self-titled Kiwanuka.

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Michael Kiwanuka

It has been three years since Kiwanuka’s Mercury Prize-nominated second album and for his third, Kiwanuka has yet again teamed up with renowned producer Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley fame to help him craft a sound that although has nods to his traditional retro 70s soul sound, namely songs like Piano Joint (This Kind of Love) and I’ve Been Dazed, sees Kiwanuka branching out further stylistically than he has done before.

Danger Mouse’s production nous is all over this record and the variation in styles and indeed Kiwanuka’s willingness to take risks here can be put down to him. Tracks like Rolling and Hero have that Danger Mouse up-tempo psych soul sheen to them, while the horn drenched wall of sound soul of Living in Denial is an album highlight.

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Kiwanuka and Danger Mouse (image from NME)

Kiwanuka and Danger Mouse together are creating quite the partnership and it is great to see an artist willing to work more closely with their producer, allowing the producer, in this case, Danger Mouse, to impart their style of production and artistry across the album just as much as the artist.

The experimentation in style continues on tracks like the piano-based instrumental Another Human Being which features a spoken word sample and some electronic sound effects, while on lead single You Aint The Problem, Kiwanuka almost appears to rap the verses in what is an electric Curtis Mayfield style funk stomp.

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The leaps and bounds Kiwanuka has made since the tender soul of his debut album seven years ago is astonishing and the overall sound of Kiwanuka is proof of that fact. Kiwanuka almost sounds like a different artist all together on this album and the musical results, on the whole, live up to the reputation he has forged before.

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Many contemporary and neo-soul artists are quite happy to stay in their retro lane, looking back, and sticking to a formula that has worked for many for decades. However, on here, Michael Kiwanuka with the help of Danger Mouse has thrown that formula out the window and in doing so has made a big musical statement that shows he does not just want to be remembered as that retro-soul singer from the 2010s. No, he wants to be remembered for a lot more than that.

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Released: 01 Nov 2019

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.