Showing posts with label michael kiwanuka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label michael kiwanuka. Show all posts

Thursday, July 21, 2016

video review: 'love & hate' by michael kiwanuka

So believe it or not, I'm expecting to get a ton of hatred for this review. This is, after all, one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year... and I think it's just solid, not great. Eh, we'll see.

Next up, Uncommon Nasa and Short Fuze, and then I can finally dig into that Mark Chesnutt record, so stay tuned!

album review: 'love & hate' by michael kiwanuka

So there's a term that's become popular in the online music critic scene, particularly on YouTube. Coined by one Todd Nathanson, it's one that's attracted a fair amount of attention, expansion, and detractors, one that I've even coined myself: the 'white guy with acoustic guitar' genre. It's a bit of a nebulous term - because obviously not all white guys with acoustic guitars make bad music, look at Mark Kozalek or James McMurtry - but it typically is used to describe a certain sort of gutless, edgeless, artless pretension that's perfect for scoring your average listless summer barbecue that wouldn't dare to threaten or challenge anybody. And given that most of this music tends to make my skin crawl, I have no problem whatsoever disparaging this type of music, not just for the often below-average songwriting and guitarwork, but more for the attitudes beneath the music - I elevate artists like Kozalek and McMurtry above this term because they're trying to make artistic statements, whereas stereotypical white guys with acoustic guitars make music in order to pick up chicks or put up a forefront of depth that isn't there.

But I'll also admit it's a narrow term, and it's by no means limited to white guys, so what about black guys with acoustic guitars? Well, you're going to find far fewer examples in this subgenre, but there are a few - Darius Rucker, former frontman of Hootie & The Blowfish immediately springs to mind, and it's definitely a fair comparison. But when you consider Michael Kiwanuka, I would definitely hesitate to assign that label, mostly because he seems to play in an entirely different ballpark, even if on the surface some people might be inclined to use the label. For those who don't know, Kiwanuka is a British singer-songwriter who got his start as a session player before his breakthrough in 2012 with his debut album Home Again, which definitely had its warm folk touches and a fair amount of acoustic guitar, but tended to play more towards old school soul touches with the organ and slightly rougher production. But at the same time, as much as I liked his delivery the writing wasn't always stellar - and to be fair, good soul doesn't always need brilliant lyrics, but it feel thin at points, enough that I could see why people at first glance might assign that the label, or at least consider him a bit of a throwback. But he didn't seem willing to accept that, so recruiting Danger Mouse and fellow UK producer Inflo, he dropped his sophomore album Love & Hate that on the surface looked to be getting more conscious and develop more lyrical bite. So after I caught some strong singles, I figured I dig into this: was it worth it?