BEST OF2012: 29. Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

You know how I generally come out in hives as a result of excessive hype? Well, that’s still largely the case – Alabama Shakes, anyone? – but on this occasion I was truly seduced. It’s rare that the hype surrounding an artist translates to genuinely wonderful music. Rare, but not impossible, as ‘Home Again’ proves. I love beautifully produced soul music. Sure, I adore my Motown boxsets and the like but that floral, intricate sound of Seventies soul is just about as euphoric as music can get. The recently released (and stupendously brilliantly priced) Bill Withers box set has been a warm friend on cold nights of late and this splendid debut often produced similar states of delight. And, let me tell you, ‘Home Again’ deserves to be talked of in such circles. The novelty has not worn off and I’m still playing it regularly, dropping several tracks onto playlists and compilations almost without thinking.

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Warm, beautifully recorded vintage soul is the unashamed goal here and there are no weak links. The Bill Withers comparisons may have seemed a little grandiose when he was being touted as a ‘Sound of 2012’, but time allows a chance to take stock and Kiwanuka possesses a quite phenomenal voice. He flexes and curls his vocals around joyous moments such as ‘Tell Me A Tale‘ and ‘I’ll Get Along‘. With an acoustic undercurrent and sympathetic production from Paul Butler of The Bees, this is an absolute treat for fans of rootsy vintage soul and a remarkable statement of intent for a debut release. The woozy shuffle of ‘Bones’ was a highlight of the few dry hours at this year’s Green Man Festival where Kiwanuka put on a stunningly tight performance with his band. Even Tom Robinson’s excruciatingly shit introduction couldn’t ruin it. That said, he nearly managed that fate prior to Mogwai’s set on the Friday. “Give me an M, give me an O…” and so on he went. Nice bloke, good taste in music but, as a compere, almost as bad as the fat lad who does the Far Out tent and thinks he’s funny.

Where was I? Oh yes, forget the fact that it sells well in supermarkets. Forget the fact it had the arse hyped off it and people whose taste in jumpers, let alone music, you don’t trust like it and just give it a go. It’s a beautiful, beautiful record and one which has stood tall all year round.

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