'Kiwanuka' album review: Soul-pop artist bares his soul


Influenced by 60s psychedelic rock and 70s Motown sounds, the record is a narrative of overcoming personal trauma

Chris Gillett |

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2016’s Love & Hate saw soul-pop artist Michael Kiwanuka gain his first number one album, and now the Brit is back with his third – Kiwanuka.

This album is influenced by 60s psychedelic rock mixed with 70s soul and Motown sounds, while the 32-year-old singer’s narrative is one of overcoming personal trauma.

Tracks like Rolling transport you back to the surge of The Rolling Stones in their prime, where a beat-sound guitar riff carries the song, while Hero channels the fuzz-wah of guitar god Jimi Hendrix. But the rampant throwback sound is underpinned by Kiwanuka’s need to unload emotionally. Even the ominous piano chords of Final Days follows suit as he pleads, “Crying on the phone/Trying to make you understand/Living honestly is so hard for me/Such a heavy load/You know I really need a friend.”

Soft and sleepy I 've Been Dazed could soundtrack Tarantino’s blockbuster Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but this imagery is quickly punctured by Kiwanuka’s desperate refrain, “Help me carry on/Time is a healer.”

Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love) balances his melodic sensibility with adventurousness as he pours out, “I hope I fall in love today/No more heartache and trouble/And though I’ve been bruised/Let me in again/I could use a friend.”

It might not have the highs of his early material, but this album really shows us the person behind the music.