I watched American Beauty this past week, and it made me cry dear readers. It wasn’t something I was expecting, but I suspect the movie just opened me up to the experience of addressing some hard feelings I had about love, loss and hate. If you’ve seen the movie, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say it was during Lester Burnham’s final monologue.
That’s the challenge with feelings though, you don’t always get what you expect in life, but that doesn’t make them any less important to work through.
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
released July 15, 2016
Michael Kiwanuka is a British singer-songwriter that makes soul music with a folk backing. Influenced by many classic acts of the 1970s, including Jimi Hendrix, Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Tommy Sims, Kiwanuka has now released two albums on the Communion Records label.
I think it’s safe to say that we can hear hints of those musicians in his sound, and there are other artists which could fit the reference bill as well, like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, but that doesn’t mean because Kiwanuka has skipped the innovation party that he is an imitator by any regard.
Rather he sings about his personal experience using soul music as his platform. Black Man In A White World is an excellent example of this and a great second track to include on the album right after Cold Little Heart. At almost ten minutes long, that first track is emotionally heavy and rightly so because of the self-analysis it runs through.
This record is full of little examples of heartache and unresolved pain. You know how it goes though, life has it’s moments of joy and newfound love, but when that relationship hits the end of it’s value you’re left without closure and unfortunate leftovers of those emotions. Falling is the third track and it describes that sense of love lost and the hindsight bias of moments that should have been red flags.
As the album works towards the middle Place I Belong, title track Love & Hate, and One More Night each do their part to keep the tempo somber and compelling in it’s deep explorations of tolerance. The title track in particular brings more of that length to the game, running at just over seven minutes in runtime.
After all Kiwanuka is narrating a story of man looking to find his place in the world, one which is confusing at best and tragic at it’s worst. But the hidden strength is definitely in the production provided by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton; where we can feel included in this raw questioning of things and appreciate his insecurities. After all, while the record is very heavy in it’s themes, the tone isn’t so dark as to leave us out of journey.
While I have a special place in my heart for Cold Little Heart, and Love & Hate, the stand out track is probably Father’s Child, another longer song which explores the spiritual side of life and looks for both meaning and guidance.
Michael Kiwanuka is exploring some great ideas and feelings on this record, and while the saying goes, you can only hate someone you once loved, it’s in the quiet moments of reflection that we realize that those strong emotions are what allow us to enjoy and appreciate life. It might be sad to let someone go, but our lives are all the better for it, Kiwanuka just asks we spend some time with it.
But that’s just a theory.