One by whom the soul revival arrived in the last few years, Michael Kiwanuka strikes back with an amazing album, that goes beyond soul music. He chooses to start with a bold statement: a 10-minute-long song, Cold Little Heart, which includes a long instrumental intro, electric guitars, female back vocals… It’s like he selected elements from both The Black Keys and Pink Floyd to add to his soul music! And it works!

After Kiwanuka’s 2012 “Home Again” album, we have seen the (re)emergence of such soul singers as Lee Fields, Leon Bridges, Charles Bradley and even Pokey Lafarge, in a jazzier mode. The revival has started with this young 25 year-old singer-songwriter who came out of nowhere (well, from North London, actually) with beautifully delivered songs like Home Again, Bones, I’m Getting Ready


On “Love & Hate”, which came out last July, Kiwanuka consolidates his craft with strong statements like Black Man in a White World that blends roots feel with hand claps and string arrangements that bring a lot of drama. He still does great soul ballads (Falling), where each word is carefully sung, with feeling, but never over doing-it.

The arrangements on the whole record, thanks to producers Danger Mouse, Inflo and Paul Butler (who each play many instruments on the album) are very rich and original. Place I Belong has a great retro feel with delicate strings that punch in on occasion, and female singers that bring a 50s feel. But the rhythm section, with fuzzy electric guitar and rich drumming adds a Black Keys spice that makes the whole thing more modern. Perfect Blend!

There are a couple of other 7 minute-long songs later in the album, which is a pretty rare for soul music, which usually stay conservative in the 3 or 4-minute format.

And of course, there is THAT voice. Michael Kiwanuka has the perfect tone of voice and singing skills to make a heart bleed. His sensibility makes everything beautiful (Love & Hate). It was reported in interviews that the songwriter had lived a period of self-doubt, and probably depression, after the success of his first album, which complexified the process of writing its follow-up.


“Love & Hate” isn’t an album that will rock your party. Its 10 strong songs that you will listen when you need to connect with your own soul. Beautiful moments guaranteed.

Kiwanuka’s first album had been nominated for a Mercury Prize, and so did “Love & Hate”. It was praised by many music journalists: The Telegraph said “This is an album that sounds like a world of music in itself”, while The Guardian called the album “the work of an artist coming into his own”. Writing for Exclaim!, Ryan B. Patrick lauded Kiwanuka’s “introspective study of himself and his standing in a post-millennial world”, as mentioned on Wikipedia.

I totally agree.


Love & Hate
(Polydor/Interscope, 2016)

-Genre: rock soul
-In the same style as Ben Harper, Leon Bridges, The Black Keys

Buy the album on the artist’s Google Play page
Follow the artist via her Facebook page
Listen to videos on the artist’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.