Home Again is the brilliant debut album from Michael Kiwanuka, it's one of the best albums I've heard this year and has to be one of the best debut albums I've heard in a long time. This is a truly mesmerising album, in it's maturity, in it's emotive reflection and in the rich and textured orchestration that accompanies some of the songs. If you were looking for some headline grab or analogy to describe the sound of this album, try thinking of Otis Redding being backed by the Moody Blues during their Days of Future Passed time period. Home Again is deeply rooted in soul but with settings that dabble in English folk with plenty of woodwind instruments and strong acoustic features.
The opening track Tell Me A Tale is unlike anything I've heard before it sounds a little like early Jethro Tull with these jazz like drum patters and soaring flute lines, driven along by Kiwanukas impassioned pleas for ideas he can believe in and strength that he can use. The middle of the song switches to Chicago style soul before returning to the fire of strings and and a sax solo that makes me think of something Van Morrison would have used on one if his early 70's albums. I'm Getting Ready is more mellow with a gospel feel, the depth in Kiwanuka's voice is striking no matter what the material requires, I'll Get Along has a unique mix of folk and soul with those woodwind sounds floating through. Rest is more guitar driven, stripped back Kiwanuka's voice is front and centre once again I'm transported back into the 70's thinking of Bill withers fronting the Band with the addition of dense strings. It's hard to create an album that is a hybrid of so many styles but Kiwanuka has no trouble melding these influences together to create something that is very organic and the music never sounds contrived there is a strong emotional depth to his writing, it's intense and personal. Home Again the title track has a striking sense of optimism and hope with some nice percussive tones. When listening to Bones it sounds like Kiwanuka has been transported back into the 1950's with a Ray Charles styled R&B crooner with twinkling piano and doo wop backing vocals. The song is stripped back giving plenty of room for Kiwanuka to once again display the versatility and clarity in his voice.
The melancholic Always Waiting is a gem with a musical canvas that sounds almost baroque, those string lines that sweep thorough the chorus. The album was produced by Paul Butler who is lead vocalist and songwriter for the Isle of Wight based band The Bees who I happened to see live in Melbourne and also in London at the Astoria. Any Day Will Do Fine is Kiwanuka summoning the spirit of Otis Redding with a strong acoustic backing before Memphis style horns gently caress the chorus and then these beautiful string lines in the bridge. I heard Kiwanuka interviews this week on the Inside Sleeve and I was struck one by his age (he is 21) but also by the music he was influenced by. He mentioned at around 15 he saw the Band's Last Waltz and was captivated by what he heard and saw and I remember the same feeling when I saw the Last Waltz at the same age. Home Again gives us another album that offers us hope that the future of music is bright, that we aren't going to succumb to the machinations of The Voice or The X Factor. Artists are no longer reliant and on record labels to get their music heard there are so many more avenues now for artists to promote their work, it's a refreshing thought.