Michael Kiwanukah

Love & Hate (Polydor, Interscope ’16) Rating: A
Wow, this is the best new artist I’ve heard in some time, and right off the bat let me proclaim Love & Hate an instant classic/masterpiece of an album that’s a serious contender for album of the year (against strong competition from the likes of David Bowie and Radiohead). After a fine but more modest first offering in 2012, Home Again, Kiwanukah teamed up with producer Danger Mouse (as well as Inflo and Paul Butler) for this more expansive second set, which recalls earlier legends like Isaac Hayes, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, and Terry Callier (at least Callier should be considered a legend) without paying too obvious homage to anybody. After all, Pink Floyd is another clear influence, especially on the more epic-scale tracks. I mean, how many soul artists today are willing to start their album off with a 10-minute slow builder whose lead vocals don’t even enter until after 5 minutes have elapsed? This is something different, and that first song, “Cold Little Heart,” is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite songs. In addition to being a great singer and songwriter, this British soulster is an excellent guitar player, and this is a great guitar album; I could name several other songs that feature standout guitar passages, even if none are quite so striking aside from perhaps the title track, another long (7:07) song that (like several other songs as well) also makes terrific use of chanted backing vocals, strings that swell to symphonic proportions, and drums that sound like they’re played by an actual person rather than a machine. Some of the other songs are more stripped down, and there are also a few livelier funk/groove-based numbers that provide some needed balance, including the catchy first single “Black Man In A White World.” This song doesn’t need any clarification as to its message, and it fits the albums general themes of alienation, self-loathing, loneliness, and dislocation (as well as any other number of sad adjectives you could add!). Ultimately, this album uplifts me simply because it’s so damn good, and I can’t wait to hear what this guy does next.

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