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Friday, 31 August 2012 09:00

Charting the Music: Michael Kiwanuka, 'Home Again'

Charting the Music: Michael Kiwanuka, 'Home Again'
Written by Magdalene Linck

Pure, sweet and smooth, Michael Kiwanuka's "Home Again" is a beautifully crafted yet raw album proving soul is not dead.

"Home Again," the first full-length release from the 24-year-old Kiwanuka, is a wonderfully assembled collection that flows beautifully, as though he is an older, more seasoned talent. The debut showcases Kiwanuka's strengths as a songwriter, as he subtly fuses jazz, funk and soul.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #2 CMJ and #3 Americana for the week of August 21, 2012

Record label, release date and producers: "Home Again" was initially released in the UK on March 12, 2012 by Polydor Records. It was released stateside on May 8, 2012 by Interscope. The album was produced by Paul Butler.

Can be heard on: The Record Sto' with Doug Morgan, Gold Soundz with Chris Bay and Bittersweet Melody with Allen Dahm

Hometown: Kiwanuka hails from Northern London.

Key tracks: The album opens with "Tell Me A Tale," a track that features delicate wind instruments atop a simple arrangement of the rhythm section. At first the song is incredibly delicate as the wind instruments sound almost like birds. Kiwanuka introduces a fuller horn section and strings that suggest a classic Northern soul sound. "I'll Get Along" is a sweeter ballad that reminds the listener of the Impressions. As before, Kiwanuka treats the wind instruments as breaths in between the guitar, drums, horns and vocals. However, "Bones" is the album's standout track, a stunning fusion of Soul Stirrers-style vocals with '60s pop and Northern soul.

Key lyric: "Tell me a tale that always was / Sing me a song that I'll always be in / Tell me a story that I can read / Tell me a story that I believe" from "Tell Me A Tale." Through these first words of the album Kiwanuka allows the listener to understand immediately his themes. The inherent sweetness of the words fuse with the delicacy of the instrumentation. After Kiwanuka finishes singing these lines a larger horn section enters to further emphasize his words, giving listeners stories and songs in which they can truly believe.

About the producer: Paul Butler is best known for his work in the Bees, a '60s-influenced garage band from the UK. Butler has toured with the group throughout the UK, playing dates with Oasis, Madness and, most recently, Fleet Foxes. Butler also collaborated with Gorillaz for the track "Bill Murray," which appeared on the group's 2007 release "D-Sides."

About the label: Polydor Records is a UK-based branch of the Universal Music Group that features artists such as La Roux, Duffy and Klaxons.

RIYL: Raphael Saadiq, James Vincent McMorrow, Sam Cooke

Play it here: Perfect for quiet times during the day -- in the bathtub, while cooking dinner or right before bed.

About the album art: The cover of "Home Again" is incredibly simple in appearance and could easily be mistaken for an Otis Redding LP as it boasts beautifully-kerned words, a high-contrast image and an unmistakably '70s color scheme. Furthermore, the liner notes feature the photography of Benjamin Etridge. Etridge uses vintage film stock and paints a portrait of Kiwanuka as an old soul, whose genius is trapped in the modern world.

Started in: Kiwanuka's musical career in June 2011 when he signed to the Communion Records label.

What the critics say: "On ‘Home Again,' the young Kiwanuka proves that youth and wisdom are not mutually exclusive and his insights and talents, albeit still a bit raw, suggest great things to come." -- Hilary Saunders of Paste.

Discover more new music on all the 88.1 KDHX charts.


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