Album Review: Michael Kiwanuka, ‘Love & Hate’

Album Review: Michael Kiwanuka, ‘Love & Hate’

Four years ago, Michael Kiwanuka scooped up the 2012 BBC Sound of Music prize, and was mercury nominated for his debut album ‘Home Again’. Since then however, Kiwanuka hasn’t become the household name some might have expected, and in fact he debated giving up music altogether. Nevertheless, a new approach taken on by the 29 year old has seen him looking to bring a modern sound to his soul searching music. This can be heard on ‘Love & Hate’, a hugely soulful and emotional record with regular moments of pure brilliance.

Kiwanuka is not afraid to take his time in the album to truly express what he feels, and this is evident from the very first track. ‘Cold Little Heart’ is a ten minute long epic with orchestral soul and a Pink Floyd-esque guitar solo, which eventually leads into the 29 year old singing about the remains of a relationship. It’s clear from this song how Kiwanuka’s sound has changed and adapted since his debut in 2012, and the title track also showcases this. The warped guitar used in conjunction with catchy backing vocals and the recurring sound of strings gives the lyrics weight and power. This is also the case in ‘Father’s Child’, where the artist’s compelling vocals ooze authenticity in abundance.

However Kiwanuka doesn’t just address personal issues within this album, ‘Black Man in a White World’ tackles the issues of racial identity. The singer himself likened the track to “slave music”; with the repetitive nature of the hand clapping and backing vocals emphasising the struggles of a black man in today’s society. It is a great portrayal of Kiwanuka’s personal views on a worldwide problem, and is a highlight of the album.

‘The Final Frame’ provides a perfect end to the album, with a soulful orchestral feel combined with distorted guitar solos and superb authentic lyricism. The song is a fitting outro to a record that is a depiction of Kiwanuka coming into his own. ‘Love & Hate’ reflects an artist truly feeling his music, allowing the listener to feel it too.


Review by John Jarman