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Workshop Hi-Fi December

posted by Matt Pierce on December 12, 2016

It has been a good month for finding music around here. Leading up to now, I've been overplaying Marvin Gaye's legendary album What's Going On. It makes me think, it hints at hope, I feel it has so much relevance in society right now that I can't believe more people aren't talking about it. That being said, I'm in a real heavy place musically. 

I've been drawn to heavy, sad music since I was young. I could blame Robert Smith, however I love it so much. I find such life within the tracks of heavy albums. It's as if I need to further punish my over-empathetic nature, but I come through a more complete human. 

This new Michael Kiwanuka record Love & Hate has me floored. It's so damn good. It's a reflection of sadness, bewilderment and wonder, played out in cinematic form. There's a level of introspection that as you listen, that keeps you wanting him to find his answers, however we know it's too early for a neat resolution. The depth of emotion is astounding. "Cold Little Heart" as a ten minute introduction to the record is amazing. Moving through to "Love & Hate", you're listening to his arc of the story and other emotions are coming forward. As the record progresses, things get better... but you know it's gonna take a while to fully come out of this. As I was reading what other people have written about the record, Marcus J. Moore seemed to nail it - "Kiwanuka speaks to the hearts of those who want the best out of humanity, even as the world implodes."

After devouring this album, I had to purchase Kiwanuka's first record from 2012 - Home Again. It's not nearly as heavy, but shares so much personality and emotion that it absolutely stands on its own. The depth in production is wonderful, layers and layers of sound... woodwind, strings, crisp percussion, and melody for days. You'll definitely feel the comfort of 60s and 70s era greats, providing an immediate familiarity. Maybe it's the best way to come back from Love & Hate even though it's from four years earlier?

If there's one person that has felt the depth of sorrow that Kiwanuka displays on Love & Hate, but has come out wiser and more confident, that guy is Lee Fields. The new record Special Night from Lee Fields & The Expressions is like a road map for how to be self aware and confident. There's heavy emotion, but with a stride that inspires you. I want to hang out with this guy, I want to learn from him.

The record starts with "Special Night", a super sentimental song to his dream lady, rolls into "I'm Coming Home" which continues this romance, then hit's a rocky patch with "Work To Do", which signals that he might have screwed something up. We all know it can't be romantic bliss all the time, and this makes us all nod with the realization that Fields is an expert in human behavior.

As the album progresses, "Make The World" is an amazing anthem that everyone should listen to. He sings "We can make the world better - if we come together...". As you listen to this record, you become a better human and Fields seems to know the path to get you there.