Album of the Week: Michael Kiwanuka, 'KIWANUKA'

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Michael Kiwanuka, 'KIWANUKA'
Michael Kiwanuka, 'KIWANUKA' (Interscope)
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Michael Kiwanuka has transformed from singer songwriter to a master at the craft of making an album. His lyrics and writing have blossomed from the seeds of simplistic beauty to raw emotion. On Kiwanuka's self-titled album, he embraces all his influences from Curtis Mayfield to Joni Mitchell, all while cementing his identity as a powerful voice capable of crafting songs that confront personal narratives and the human condition.

KIWANUKA opens with the lead single from the album, a love song that is an extension of theme found in his 2016 record Love & Hate, but the album quickly adds a depth of production that touches on sixties psychedelia, U.K. jazz, and seventies R&B. The album is a brave step forward for Kiwanuka as he sings about coping with loss in a world of disillusionment. You hear him be vulnerable on "Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love)" and "Living In Denial." Both songs make no attempt to conform to a sound prescribed by the outside world, but you can hear the continued influence of Danger Mouse who was tapped a second time as producer. There seems to be a chemistry between the songwriter and producer that might be a defining creative period for the two hyper-creative artists.

For an artist who just had a huge popular moment through the placement of his single "Cold Little Heart" in the HBO series "Big Little Lies," Michael Kiwanuka doesn't attempt to recreate that moment on the new material. Instead he added intros and interludes into the new album that makes it shine more brightly as a complete body of work than any one single. That said, there are plenty of songs that have a lush cinematic feel.

Michael Kiwanuka's new album, KIWANUKA, is out now.

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