Next week we will be doing double time as we begin the 25 best songs of 2012 and finish up the best albums of 2012. Then the week after that instead of going back and doing the best albums of 2002, which was a throw away, dumb idea anyway, we’re going to do the best five EP’s of 2012. That should take us nearer to Christmas, where we may or may not do a Christmas post. I can neither confirm nor deny that will happen. Now on to #8.
I loved Home Again more than I’ve loved any album since the first time I heard Amos Lee’s debut in a Barnes and Noble bookstore so many years ago. It’s beautiful and simple. It spoke to me probably more than any other album this year. I so enjoyed the flowing guitar picking and the ease of Kiwanuka’s voice as he subtly weaved his way through 1970’s inspired melodies. When I reviewed this album in August I spoke about how aware he seemed:
Perhaps the singer is channeling his inner Dylan here after all and at the same time realizing the immediacy of life. It isn’t preachy or self-aggrandizing, but merely prescient. He is telling you the listener you’re going to regret things in life, everyone does, but if you live your life like “you’re running out of time” then the regrets will be minimal. In a sense what Michael Kiwanuka is saying throughout this record is merely to be aware, because he certainly is.
From song one to song eleven this album is put together perfectly. It exemplified something that we were missing since the aforementioned Amos Lee made a truly great album (he hasn’t done so since that debut). Jack Johnson has tried to do this, John Mayer has tried and none have accomplished the sheer magnificence of what Kiwanuka did with this debut. This is a throwback album to those 1960 and ’70’s albums that had contemporary melodies with soulful lyrical quality.
When I saw him at Outside Lands while expecting huge, magnificent, life altering things from him, I was bracing for a letdown and yet he overshot those expectations by smiling, wearing heart sunglasses a girl threw to him and playing such beautifully arranged songs with amazing lyrical content that it was in fact life changing. He was one of the acts that I was just amazed at his charisma without being fake. There were no pyrotechnics, no screaming, no antics to entice the crowd to scream, just little serene moments that made the entirety of the performance special.
Home Again is slow and melodic like a lazy weekend. It won’t make jump and sing, but songs like “Bones”, “Lasan” and “I’ll Get Along” do show different facets of Mr. Kiwanuka’s range. Not only a range of vocal effectiveness, but also emotions and lyrical brilliance. There’s a very Sam Cooke quality about this. In my review I referenced Otis Redding, but I think I was mistaken then. The simplicity with which he moves through the notes is extremely reminiscent of Sam Cooke’s days as a Gospel singer with the Soul Stirrers.
If this were a list of my favorite albums of the year this would probably be number one, but alas this is a list of the best albums of the year and there were some albums that were more musically experimental and meaningful. We’ll get to those next week, but for sheer music enjoyment without pretension this album is simply a masterpiece.
Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again can be purchased here.