REVIEW: Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Michael Kiwanuka‘s much anticipated debut album, Home Again, is out now via Communion Records. Beyond a year or two of underground gigs, highly sought after EPs, radio appearances and a handful of accolades, the album is here.

Most reviews for this album start either with the words ‘neo-soul’ or ‘BBC Sound of 2012’, but let us consider this without any of that baggage. We’re not here to necessarily review the man’s chances of success, we’re just here to say what we think of the actual music.

Tracklisting:

01. Tell Me A Tale
02. I’m Getting Ready
03. I’ll Get Along
04. Rest
05. Home Again
06. Bones
07. Always Waiting
08. I Won’t Lie
09. Any Day Will Do Fine
10. Worry Walk Beside Me

From the first track there is a retro feel, no doubt, though certainly not a pastiche. The influences are clear and varied, if a little surprising. Tell Me A Tale comes across like a reworking of Bullitt-era Lalo Schifrin, without the recording studio room sound or 1960s reverbs. The descending flute line and the jazz drums giving way to the string section.

The title track, Home Again, is the most obviously radio-friendly track on the album, though this is not a niche LP by any means, and it sits much closer as a grittier incarnation of Jack Johnson, his voice a soothingly mellifluous accompaniment. I’ll Get Along treads similar ground, but with a much jauntier flute line. Michael Kiwanuka appears to be a fan of the flute solo, and it has to be said, it does add a distinct summery breeze to a song!

Kiwanuka’s voice seems malleable enough to fit in with the changes, from the Marvin Gaye-style vocals of Tell Me A Tale to the Laurel Canyon mournfulness of Always Waiting. There are a lot of different angles, and it can seem as though odd genres have been put side by side, but it works. Most importantly, the vocals are sublime and the album sits easily near the top of this year’s best. And yes, I think he almost certainly will go on to achieve major success.