2: Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
London-based singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s 2012 debut album, “Home Again,” was a nice enough collection of laid-back soul tunes, simmering with potential but modest in ambition. No one can accuse his follow-up of being modest. “Love & Hate” makes its grand intentions clear on the epic 10-minute opening cut, “Cold Little Heart.” Hot-shot producer Danger Mouse works with a lush palette here and on several other tracks, layering on the strings and gospel-choir backing vocals and bringing to mind “Hot Buttered Soul”-era Isaac Hayes. (On a couple of songs, such as the mournful “I’ll Never Love,” the versatile Mr. Mouse employs a stripped-down, folky approach reminiscent of ‘70s cult hero Terry Callier.) Kiwanuka seems to be in a far more serious mood this time around. He weighs in on the frustrations of being a “Black Man in a White World” and begs his demons to leave him be on the mesmerizing, slow-build title track. It might be nice to hear a few more upbeat numbers on his next outing, both in tempo and tone– the mood on “Love & Hate” is unequivocally melancholy. But that’s a very minor quibble. With this glorious sophomore effort, Kiwanuka has gone from promising newcomer to one of our most important contemporary artists in a single stride.
- 10: ABC – The Lexicon of Love II
- 9: M83 – Junk
- 8: Bon Iver – 22, A Million
- 7: Angel Olsen – My Woman
- 6: Andrew Bird – Are You Serious?
- 5: Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
- 4. The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
- 3: Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs – case/lang/veirs