Everything about Home Again suggests that it's about forty years too late to the party. The gorgeous sepia-toned album artwork looks like something that you might have found when raiding your parents' vinyl collection but the face on the cover belongs to Michael Kiwanuka, a 24 year old Londoner who was recently announced as the winner of BBC's Sound of 2012 poll - a distinctly contemporary honour for a musician whose music has more ties to the past than it does the present.
Kiwanuka's vintage soul vocals fill every square inch of the album's sonic landscape with an atmosphere of yesteryear, nodding towards the soulful jazz of early Van Morrison, the reflective folk of Nick Drake's Bryter Layter with an added helping of Curtis Mayfield for good measure. Of course, too heavy a reliance on these themes could have reduced the album to little more than gimmickry but Kiwanuka's exquisite voice, coupled with Paul Butler's perfectly imperfect production, has yielded an album in which virtually every track is a standout.
'Tell Me A Tale', a sort of a companion piece to Van's 'Caravan', opens the album in fine fettle. The song, a melting pot of flute, horns, strings (not to mention the mahogany vocals) creates a warm, rootsy atmosphere which remains constant throughout the course of its ten tracks. 'I'll Get Along' and 'Bones' are others which benefit from the arrangements, with the surrounding musicians providing a pep to the mix from which Kiwanuka is able to display his talents. Kiwanuka even borders on the bare-it-all style of Amy Winehouse with 'Worry Walks Beside Me' and is able to deliver emotional impact in the album's big numbers like this as well as its more understated ones, like title-track 'Home Again'.
Kiwanuka's debut album is a wonderful collection of exquisitely arranged and performed soulful grooves. It's interesting to note that an album which identifies so solidly with an antique period of popular music has signposted Kiwanuka as being one to keep a close watch on in the future. A wonderful achievement.