Michael Kiwanuka’s debut LP, Home Again, was to 2012, what Leon Bridges’ Coming Home was to 2015. A classic sound made new again. The largely acoustic record was soulful, intimate, and mature; filled with sounds of the past, interpreted with modern sensibilities. All of this speaks to the skill and character of a musician whose presence is sure to be felt for a very long time. An assurance that cemented with mighty force upon the release of his second LP, Love & Hate.
If I had to choose the five best albums of the year so far, this would be one of them. No question. I was blown away at the leap in ambition between this and Home Again, especially considering his only output between the two records was the two song single You’ve Got Nothing To Lose, which embraced the style of his first record, more than not. When I saw that Dangermouse had been called upon to produce, I knew I was in for a treat; what I didn’t know how just much of a treat it would be. The album’s 10 minute opener, “Cold Little Heart,” which is mostly instrumental, tells you exactly what you’re in for, and by the time the drums kick in and Michael’s voice reveals itself, you’re already in deep. The first time I put this record on, all I could do was sit and listen. It demands and deserves nothing less than your undivided attention.
This album is a fully realized vision; it burns slow when it needs to, cuts deep when it needs to, rocks out when it needs to. It’s masterful work, in every sense of the word. It’s about a man coming to grips with not only who he is but with the state of the world he’s living in. A world of racial injustice, of lost loves, redemption, belief in a higher power, the list goes on. In the end, it’s the album's patience that hooked me; showing the confidence he had when crafting the record. Confidence in himself, in his words, in his music. Love & Hate has seen Michael Kiwanuka bloom into something far greater than what I had expected, at least on his second album. This is the best surprise of the year. Don’t let it slip through the cracks.