Michael Kiwanuka is a part of the 2012 Bonnaroo lineup. He's got an "acoustic blues-folk sound and timeless soulful voice." And he's only a year older than me - lucky hardworking musician so-and-so. Anywhos, some cool notes I've come across include his love of rock music - particularly Radiohead and Nirvana. Not to shabby taste there sir.
Life's taken him around, performing as a session musician and finally getting discovered and signed. He is on Mumford & Sons' Communion label, and has had two EPs out before this. Let's note that he was Adele's support on her UK tour (WHAT?) and has been on many short lists for critics awards. The BBC named him the Sound of 2012, and here we have his debut album.
"Tell Me A Tale" is the first track, and the opening sound is so... odd, but cool. He's got a voice like Charles Bradley, with the right sort of band to back that, but also a flute element that makes it just different enough. There's funk and soul strewn throughout, and you'd almost thing you're listening to something from at least 40-50 years ago, but this is recent stuff. Lyrically, it's pretty great, staying just shy of too much meaning or story, providing a great opening song to really get people in the mood for the album.
A guitar leads in the band for "Rest," which sounds just as its name implies. I'm honestly persuaded to take a nap during this one. It's not boring, by any means, but it is quite relaxing, and that's not something you can say about a lot of songs. The safety felt by this song is something else that sort of astounds me. That's quite a combination: relaxing and safety. It's sort of the feeling you desire to have with any man, I think. Or, at least sometimes you want that feeling... okay, back on track here. Just a really nice song, take a listen.
"Home Again" comes in with a classical guitar picking, and isn't so much about getting back home (as I expected), but is more about finding a feeling of home. Those are two very, very different things, let me tell you. There is a slight beat that comes in around a minute in, along with harmonies that are just plain interesting. This is an unexpected sound from this man on first glance, but winds up being really clean and impressive.
"Always Waiting" takes just a slightly country turn for the album, though it still remains in that folk vein that I talked about earlier. There's something unique to it, of course, I mean this is Michael Kiwanuka we're talking about, and he sound is obviously unique. I think its the vocal style, infused with soul, that makes it just slightly off the beaten path of folk. It's a sadder song, lyrically, as the title might imply, but as most country/folk songs do, this one maintains a pretty upbeat attitude musically somehow. It's like there's a bit of hope tucked away in those guitar strings.
In the next one, I would have bet money he was going for a spiritual. "I Won't Lie" never seems to utter the words of the title within the song (I may have missed that though), but takes on a slower feel, complete with really sweet sounds I only ever remember hearing in churches before. The music is simply - a strumming to keep it going. Again, a relaxing number.
"Any Day Will Do Fine" is a smokey bar song (I think this is how I describe any song that's similar to this sound). I guess what I mean by that is that it's quiet, but with an intensity in the accompanying instruments. The horns are there, but mixed to the back and almost muted from time to time. The bass takes up the fantastic line that you barely realize, but it does maintain the whole song. Finally, there's a guitar over it all with no true sense of direction, but it adds to the song in its own phrases that hit just every so often.
"Lasan" is the final song, and I'm beginning to suspect the Michael is winding down and/or getting tired as well. This one drags just as much as the last one (in fact, I'm seeing very little difference between the two). The vibe is completely one of completion. The stronger material was clearly in the beginning of the album, but this is a helpful reminder that all good things must come to an end (god I hate that phrase..).
- "Tell Me A Tale"
- "I'll Get Along"
- "Home Again"
- "Any Day Will Do Fine"
This was one of those days/albums that was a pleasant surprise and awesome discovery. Michael Kiwanuka is really very talented, and has an ear for mixing music in genres and styles that you rarely hear in albums released past 1975. This was wonderful confused in its genre specification, and really contained some incredible musical moments.