Michael Kiwanuka Shines on Sophomore LP ‘Love & Hate’
Michael Kiwanuka assembles a superb effort with sophomore LP Love & Hate. The singing, songwriting, and production are top-notch.
There should be nothing but love for Michael Kiwanuka. Who? A talented British musician who oozes with soul yet is equally gifted as a singer/songwriter. Like so many underrated musicians, Kiwanuka is something like a “best-kept secret.” He shouldn’t be. Radiant sophomore album Love & Hate proves why.
“Cold Little Heart” is an ambitious opening statement. Though lengthy at 10 minutes in duration, it’s thoughtful, emotional, and sets the tone for Love & Hate. Vocally, Kiwanuka is on-point – “perfect from the field.” Brilliant follow-up “Black Man in a White World” is more accessible in regards to duration. What “Black Man in a White World” does brilliantly is open up a discussion about social issues and eliminate stereotypes.
“Falling” sounds as if it could’ve appeared back in the 60s. While it doesn’t fall in line with the modern bag of tricks, it’s not anachronistic either. Lush, chilling, and mesmerizing, Kiwanuka invites the listener in. Similarly, “Place I Belong” embraces retro sensibilities, with the backing vocalists sounding as if they were borrowed from Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By” (Hot Buttered Soul). Arguably “Falling” has the “leg up” on “Place,” but the refrain is epic.
Like “Cold Little Heart” (though not as drastically), Kiwanuka allows time for title track “Love & Hate” to develop; to percolate. The result is a song that easily separates itself as one of the elite moments. “I believe / she won’t take me somewhere I’m not supposed to be,” Kiwanuka sings, continuing, “You can’t steal the things that God has given me / no more pain and no more shame and misery.” Simply grand.
Kiwanuka is optimistic on “One More Night,” pushing forward to reach morning. “But I believe it,” he sings on the chorus, “one more night till the morning.” Kiwanuka characterizes morning as “The Promised land” – atonement of sorts.
After showing tremendous resolve on “One More Night,” the tempo slackens and the mood changes on “I’ll Never Love.” Brief but chilling, “I’ll Never Love” is darker, yet as ravishing as the majority of Love & Hate. Delightful production, amplified by lush orchestrations, truly make the record shine.
“Rule The World” is introspective, driven by hypothetical questioning. Showcasing more poise on the verses, Kiwanuka is more assertive on the refrain.
“Take me out of myself again / help me lose control / show me love, show me happiness / I can’t do this on my own”
Love & Hate concludes as compelling as it began. Penultimate record “Father’s Child” runs long, but like the other extended songs, it’s exceptional and justifies its duration. The harmonic progression in particular stands out. “The Final Frame” gives Love & Hate that exceptional retro-soul ballad chocked full of energy, not to mention distorted guitar.
All in all, Michael Kiwanuka assembles a superb effort with sophomore LP Love & Hate. The singing, songwriting, and production work are top-notch. Ultimately, there’s little, if anything to complain or rant about. Love & Hate is a highly respectable effort, without question.
Gems: “Cold Little Heart,” “Black Man in a White World,” “Love & Hate,” “Rule The World” & “Father’s Child”