Published Oct 23, 2019British musician Michael Kiwanuka's followup to the successful 2016 album Love & Hate — notably off the ubiquity of single "Cold Little Heart" — arrives wrapped within an unpretentious confidence. Using one's surname for an album title — particularly when it's the third and not a debut — takes a strong sense of self and industry standing. But this 12 track effort by the British-raised artist of Ugandan heritage is confident in his musical and songwriting abilities for good reason.
Working again with Danger Mouse and Inflo, Kiwanuka recorded the project in Los Angeles, New York and London, and it has an assured craft and folksy charm that elevates the artist among his peers. One gets the sense that Kiwanuka is a soft-spoken and humble man, one who's perspective on what constitutes blackness and groove-oriented music puts conventional and stereotyped notions on their collective rear.
While there might not be a "Cold Little Heart" with Kiwanuka, tracks like "You Ain't the Problem" mark its psychedelic territory. "Hero," "Solid Ground" and "I've Been Dazed" are rooted in expansiveness, with simple yet layered lyrics and composition. "Rolling" revels in its musical intelligence while one can feel the swell of "Final Days" and the closing track "Light."
Kiwanuka is therapeutic for all parties involved. It's honest, psychedelic, enlightening and recalls blackness defined by acoustic folk and the organic soul of past artists like Gil Scott-Heron, Bobby Womack and Otis Redding.
For the artist, it's a statement on self-acceptance, an implicit understanding that mental wellness involves a strong sense of self. (Polydor/Universal)