Back on the streets special

Michael Kiwanuka

This is, of course, a slight joke. However, as I finally seem to have resolved technical difficulties with the blog, even if health problems still aren’t quite resolved, it feels like things are up and running again.

So, a few pieces I wrote over the summer are on God Is In The TV, including album reviews for Michael Kiwanuka (above)’s Love and HateScott Walker’s Childhood of a Leader soundtrack and Frank Ocean’s Blonde.

I’ve got numerous album reviews I want to write (including for New Model Army and the Wedding Present) and on a completely different sort of music tip again, I’ve also been enjoying a lot of Grime of late too, including albums from Giggs, Skepta and Kano. The latter has been responsible for my favourite track of late ‘T-shirt weather in the Manor’ from his brilliant album Made In The Manor.

The return of Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka

It’s been a while – but Michael Kiwanuka has announced his sophomore album Love & Hate. Produced by Inflo and Danger Mouse, the first track to be released from the album is ‘Black Man In A White World.’ The video for the single, which can be seen below, was directed by Japanese director Hiro Murai, who has previously worked with the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Flying Lotus.

Love & Hate will be released on May 27. The tracklisting for the album is as follows:

1. Cold Little Heart
2. Black Man In A White World
3. Falling
4. Place I Belong
5. Love & Hate
6. One More Night
7. I’ll Never Love
8. Rule The World
9. Father’s Child
10.The Final Frame

Album Review: Michael Kiwanuka


Michael Kiwanuka -‘Home Again’ (Polydor)

There has been no shortage of singer-songwriters over the last fifty years. Whilst a fair chunk of the indie scene currently suffers from being stodge by numbers and from being as far from innovative as it is possible to be, so the singer-songwriter scene suffers from a glut of perfectly pleasant but ultimately offensive from its very inoffensiveness sort of singers of both sexes. So it’s imperative that when yet another singer-songwriter is foisted upon us, much as I hate to use the phrase ‘unique Selling Point’ (USP) that they, um, do indeed have a USP.

See, my first thought on Michael Kiwanuka was that he sounded above average, but I wasn’t knocked out. There was a nice soulful tinge to it, certainly more than the faux-folk that so oftens passes around these days. The title track was a top thirty hit at the start of the year, and there was something nagging about it; that even if you tried to brush it off, it still hung around, gently persuasive.

And then I went to see him live, and he blew me away. See, he isn’t the first guy to listen to the classic soul from the first part of the seventies, but he understands what made it great, rather than the godawful Jamiroquai take on it. Probably the artist he most reminds me of is Bill Withers, but there’s a nod to the likes of the classic soul peddled by the likes of Messrs. Wonder, Gaye, and Mayfield amongst others.

Album opener ‘Tell Me A Tale’ isn’t just soul by numbers, there’s hints of jazz there too. And live, the magic comes together to make the Michael Kiwanuka Show something spectacular to behold. It’s not necessarily all translated to his debut album, but there is something here that makes this album a quiet joy. And the potential is being dveloped, by him, not a bunch of faceless record company men (and they are almost always men) in suits.

Beware of taking it out of context: one friend dismissed him as ‘beige’ – i.e. music that is middle of the road. He’s not – though it’s not an album that pushed the envelope in a way that some of his heores did on, on records like Curtis, What’s Going On or Songs In The Key Of Life. It isn’t an album as amazing as those – but then, none of those albums were their creators’ first albums, either.

The fact is: Michael Kiwanuka isn’t about a USP. He’s quietly producing music that genuinely is effective, getting into his stride, and astute enough to know that winning the Sound of 2012 may come with baggage. And I believe that he will build upon this album.


Home Again is out now on Polydor

Gig Review – Michael Kiwanuka/The Staves


Michael Kiwanuka/The Staves

Electric Circus, Edinburgh, February 25

‘Hello, we’re The Staves and we’re going to play some songs,’ says Emily Stave, almost apologetically.

She needn’t have worried. When the three-piece Emily (vocals), Jessica (vocals, guitar) and Camilla (vocals, ukulele) open with their three- part harmonies a capella you coulod almost hear a pin drop. Not bad for a support act anywhere. They’ve recently released their debut EP, Mexico, and whilst they still seem nervous between songs, once they’re playing their nerves seem to drop away.

My friend Jared, who’s accompanied me to the gig describes them as if the Bronte sisters formed a band. Over the course of songs like ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ ‘Pay Us No Mind’ and ‘Mexico’ win over a packed-out crowd who seem to warm to them instantly. Given that Edinburgh is frantically busy, a result of the sodding Rugby being on yet again, they’re greeted well, and I suspect their return headlining slot in Edinburgh at The Pleasance will be well attended.

Michael Kiwanuka recently won the BBC Sound of 2012 Poll. He opens with his single ‘I’m Getting Ready’ shortly to be re-released. Not only do the crowd adore him from the moment he walks on, but he seems to have a voice that channels the very best of seventies soul – Messrs. Wonder, Gaye, Mayfield, Hayes, and perhaps most of all, Bill Withers. The handful of songs I had heard before the gig had inclined me to think of him as being just another slightly folky singer-songwriter, but there’s alchemy at work here. ‘Always Waiting’ for example has a country feel to it, and over the course of the gig, he reveals himself to be foremost a soul man, but with folk, country, blues, funk and even a bit of rock thrown in too. Those who see himas being another person in the vein of Ed Sheeran are just so…wrong.

His band are shit-hot too; particularly percussionist Hammadi, who is apparently just filling in for a few gigs, but who joins the others in making this feel like the nearest I am ever going to get to being at one of those 60s or 70s soul revues. ‘Burnt’ has a touch of the Junior Walkers about it, while ‘Rest’ is so beautiful I feel nstress free for the first time in months.

Playing ‘Home Again’, his recent hit single, he acknowledges that there are gigs where people are shouting for this song right from the beginning. It’s not representtative of all he has to offer (much in the same way that Harvest is only a tiny picture of what Neil young has offered in over forty years of recording). He finishes with a cover of ‘Bill Withers’ I DOn’t Know’ before coming on for an ecnore with a cover of Hendrix’s ‘May This Be Love.’

I went to my first gig nearly a quarter of a century ago. At the end of the gig, I tell his guitarist that this is, without a doubt, one of the top five gigs I have ever been too – and I mean it. When I meet Michael himself, I think I just about manage not to gush too much at him. I’m hoping his forthcoming debut Home Again does the justice to what is a fantastic live show, that leaves the crowd not only begging for more, but clearly very moved indeed.