Home Again is the debut album from North London-based British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, and though it has taken me a few listens, it is now my preferred album of the moment for its soft, summery sounds and vintage feel.
‘Rootsy’ and 'soul-folk’ are labels that have been used to describe Kiwanuka’s style. He is one of a handful of unique talents who seem to sound completely current and yet deliver a sound that re-introduces us to the sounds of the '60s and '70s (Adele, Ren Harvieu, Duffy, the late Amy Winehouse, Rufus Wainwright, and Gotye to name but a few).
Home Again was produced by Paul Butler of The Bees. Butler has developed a reputation for creating a retro-modernist feel as a producer, mainly by the use of vintage equipment and instruments, and also by keeping the focus on the vocal and the singer’s own rhythm rather than using loops, click tracks or trying to perfect or quantize them.
You can hear this perfectly in Kiwanuka’s album. It begins with ‘Lasan’ (U.S. version of the album only). Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, it has subtle drums and a gospel choir that provides the backdrop for the aching and soulful vocal.
‘Tell Me A Tale’ lifts off with a quivering flute. Joined by brass and a shuffle beat, it has a lovely summery soul feel and reminded me of Corinne Bailey Rae. ‘Rest’ brings the tempo down slightly but still retains the light, summery sound with a touch of the '70s. The choral backing and flute return in ‘I’ll Get Along’ but with a firmer beat.
The next two tracks, ‘Home Again’ and ‘Getting Ready’, strip the sound right back to vocal and acoustic guitar. This is the heart of Kiwanuka’s sound – a beautifully gentle melody with a longing in the vocal that really touches you.