Miguel - Wildheart (2015)

Miguel
miguel-wildheart.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

L.A. singer-songwriter Miguel Pimentel took listening ears on a seductive psychedelic escapade with his sophomore set, Kaleidoscope Dream. From that effort came the success of "Adorn," a powerful throwback gem that felt like a 21st century "Sexual Healing." The song was more than enough to transform Miguel into a knightly R&B stud, pushing him past the urban radio-dominated reverberations of Usher, Chris Brown and Trey Songz. It did what his earlier singles failed to do and turned the pompadour-wearing crooner into a critics' darling. But, Miguel wasn't cut from your typical R&B cloth, and he's not trying to be. At least, that's the impression one may inherit after listening to Miguel’s third LP, his second with RCA.

L.A. singer-songwriter Miguel Pimentel took listening ears on a seductive psychedelic escapade with his sophomore set, Kaleidoscope Dream. From that effort came the success of "Adorn," a powerful throwback gem that felt like a 21st century "Sexual Healing." The song was more than enough to transform Miguel into a knightly R&B stud, pushing him past the urban radio-dominated reverberations of Usher, Chris Brown and Trey Songz. It did what his earlier singles failed to do and turned the pompadour-wearing crooner into a critics' darling. But, Miguel wasn't cut from your typical R&B cloth, and he's not trying to be. At least, that's the impression one may inherit after listening to Miguel’s third LP, his second with RCA.

On Wildheart, Miguel explores the deep abysses of Prince's Dirty Mind and conjures a product ruthless in its panty-dropping assignment. The horny rhetoric of his last full-length adventure seems to have multiplied with strident force. "The Valley" plays like a porn director's dream anthem, particularly when its looped track exposes the vintage low-budget "bow chicka wow wow" synths. It's considered drivel to those raised on Teddy Pendergrass and will probably only get mass traction just for being so insanely explicit. But, Miguel still finds a smart rhythm on Wildheart, one that intersects Frank Ocean subdued hipster R&B with a huge slice of Bonnaroo-focused rock. Outside the obnoxious lyricism of "The Valley," Miguel — who singlehandedly composes 90 percent of the album on his own — focuses his sexual appetite around a narrative rooted in relationship. Yeah, the thrill and the climax is poignantly exaggerated, something advocated profusely on the charming standout of "Waves" — a song that metaphorically links ocean waves to a female's G-spot, but there's a discernible quest of romance and relationship inside this sex-crazed twelve-track collection (sixteen on Deluxe Edition). "Old souls we found a new religion/now I'm swimming in that sin, baptism," he sings on "Coffee," a song burning with Frank Ocean-esque crooning. Everyone knows religion is a lifelong commitment, and he exercises that devotion elsewhere.  "Look at me baby/I just want you," Miguel pleads on "Simple Things," a Deluxe Edition offering that elusively bears the mention of the album title ("just be a tough act to follow/You know, a free spirit with a wild heart"). Inside Miguel offers the soulful pleading on a simple ballad masqueraded like the postlude of "Adorn." He hammers down more of that hunger for commitment on the "Face the Sun," where he repeats "I belong to you," as if he's caught up in a worship ritual. The familiar reference from Lenny Kravitz’s hit of the same name off 1998’s 5 is accented even more by Kravitz's serenading lead guitar. 

As Wildheart plays, one will either be flabbergasted or fatigued by the long spacey trips Miguel suits up for. There's miles of exploratory fusion — a decent, manageable combination of rock and blues — to encounter. “What’s Normal Anyway” fires up Drake-laden hip-hop, while minimal production and consistent guitar chords akin to Silversun Pickup’s “Lazy Eye” finds itself on "Leaves," which shows a downcast Miguel dealing with the departure of a girlfriend ("how could it be over?/I never saw it coming"). There's even an off-kilter, Prince-hued track in the mix on the deluxe set ("Destinado a Morir"). All of these episodes leave Miguel sounding like what the Rolling Stones were to the Beatles, like the Bizarro of Bruno Mars. 

Strangely enough, if you're pushing for a free falling adventure baked in a half-mid-tempo, half-ballad universe, Wildheartis a safe bet. With "Coffee," Waves" and the easy breezy "Simple Things" being the only radio bait offerings on deck; this project unfortunately lacks the universal accessibility and appeal of Kaleidoscope Dream. But, thanks to the world of mangled guitar strokes and Miguel's courageous exploration of Alabama Shakes psychedelic soul, he's now sounding way more authentic and adventurous than his peers. Still, for this critic's ear, it sucks he doesn't fire off anything as pop savvy as "Adorn" this time around. Recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb 

 

Leave a comment!