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Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka - Album Review

Recommended to me by fellow Rockin' The Suburbs podcast fan, Mike Wagner, I decided to check out the third album by the singer and guitarist from North London. I was aware of his name, but hadn't listened to any of his music, being wary of the hype perhaps. Time to rectify this oversight.

Kiwanuka is clear a very talented man, and this album displays considerable ambition to go with excellent musicianship on display. Played to you blind and with no information about it you would say it had been recorded in the 1970s. Sonically it sounds amazing with a sound collage style, reminiscent of "what's going on", that gives it a soundtrack type feel. Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield are the first names that come to mind, and they are clearly giants of music. 
The praise for this album is in the "album of the year" category, so hopes were set that it might meet the towering heights of those illustrious forebears, but it is too inconsistent for my tastes. Too many of the tracks, particularly what I suspect are supposed to be the "hits", such "You Ain't The Problem" and "Hero" do nothing for me at all. 

However, what is good here is very good, indeed exceptional. "I've Been Dazed", "Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love)", and especially "Final Days" and "Solid Ground"; (I'm a sucker for that descending chord sequence). These four tracks are so good in fact they can outweigh my indifference to much of the rest.
Overall I appreciated it, but it failed to connect with me on a emotional level. It is the photographic negative of "Ghosteen" by Nick Cave, (full review here), in that it is critically acclaimed, and one can hear why that is so. Whereas "Ghosteen" stirs my emotions, "Kiwanuka" merely activated my brain. I suspect that is because for all the soul influences this felt to me more like a jazz record, and hence more of the cerebral nature that genre often exhibits.
One to be admired and respected, and listening to it I can understand why it will feature in many best of 2019 lists. I will definitely follow his career from here on out, and hope for more "Solid Ground".

"How does it feel to be on your own, no-one to understand....."

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