Published Jul 15, 2016There's a thoughtfulness that permeates Michael Kiwanuka's second album, Love & Hate. Across ten songs, the UK-based singer-songwriter and musician creates an introspective study of himself and his standing in a post-millennial world. With Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, handling a bulk of the production, Kiwanuka's direction is indicated by a lyric on "Rule the World": "Do I have to lose my mind? / Cause it's been wandering."
Right off the top, the ten-minute "Cold Little Heart" — nearly half of which is an instrumental intro — sets the mood: measured, melodic, masterful. The '70s rock orchestra of "Place I Belong" shimmers with intensity, while "I'll Never Love" is poignant in its desperation. Meanwhile, an anthem like "Black Man in a White World" couldn't be more direct: "I'm in love / But I'm still sad / I've found peace / But I'm not glad."
Kiwanuka's command of his acoustic artistry recalls the soul sounds of Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes; if 2012 debut Home Again was him in exploration mode, Love & Hate finds the artist examining the relationship between emotional intelligence and self-determination. It admittedly spends a lot of time in a downer mode — a more light-amidst-the-dark feel would feel nice — but this sophomore effort remains affecting and affirming in its own quiet way. (Universal)