Home Again and Love & Hate, Michael Kiwanuka’s first two albums, were both nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Little wonder then that his eponymously titled third release was eagerly anticipated.
Born in Muswell Hill, north London, to parents who fled Idi Amin’s Uganda, Kiwanuka’s music similarly has a multicultural inheritance.
As “You Ain’t The Problem” opens the album there is the faint sound of beating drums, such a central feature of African music. This is accompanied by rhythmic bass and gospel sounds. Other tracks feature fuzzy guitars and hints of psychedelia. These disparate strands are pulled together by the lush production skills of Danger Mouse and Inflo.
Elsewhere, the music is stripped back leaving us with just a piano and Kiwanuka’s soulful voice. It exudes the mournful tones of someone yearning for something, “Solid Ground” he repeatedly declares on the penultimate song.
Sometimes it is personal, love, a sense of identity. Other tracks are more political, sampling civil rights speeches with lyrics that rail against racial injustice.
One reviewer boldly declared Kiwanuka one of the greatest albums of the decade. That is high praise indeed. It is certainly one of the best British albums of 2019.