Tuesday 18 December 2012

Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream

As we come to the end of 2012, there’s no better time to catch up on any albums that may have passed you by.  Miguel’s ‘Kaleidoscope Dream’ should be at the top of your list.  Released in the early autumn, this is the second album from the Californian singer and has slipped under the radar for many Brits despite seeing critical and commercial success over in the States.

‘Kaleidscope Dream’ is an album of smooth and soulful RnB, influenced by psychedelic funk rock and the current trend for futuristic production.  In this respect, he sits alongside the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Jai Paul – another component in a year dominated by RnB.  There may not be as much depth to the storytelling in comparison to his contemporaries, but he makes up for this in the album’s pop immediacy.  This is an altogether more frivolous and funky record, but also more accessible, and the spectacular production proves Miguel to be a true artist.

Lyrically, this sticks to the familiar themes of drugs, sex and alcohol – or, on How Many Drinks? sex and alcohol combined (“how many drinks will it take you to leave with me?”).  These songs may not be complex narratives (Candles In The Wind comes closest to his peers), but their simplicity is infectious – ranging from the sweet and loving Adorn (“just let my love adorn you”), to the pure sexual lust of Arch & Point (“baby arch your back and point your toes”).  There’s also an element of humour to Miguel’s work that keeps things light-hearted.  Do You begins with the line “do you like drugs?”, before playfully switching to “do you like hugs?”, whilst Pussy Is Mine is included not for gratuitous sex but to show Miguel as something of an improvising joker in the studio.  Throughout the album, his tenor vocals and falsetto take inspiration from the great 80s masters, Michael Jackson and Prince – sweet yet powerful.

However, it’s the production that thrills more than any provocative lyrics, as it squelches, fizzes, whirls and pounds in a dizzying mix.  The album opens with lead single Adorn, with a beat that pops like droplets in a vacuum and a soulful vocal, sounding like a modern day Sexual Healing.  This is followed by Don’t Look Back and Use Me, both of which utilise grinding metallic synths and throbbing beats.  The title track samples the funk bassline of Labi Siffre’s I Got The (more familiar as the bassline to Eminem’s My Name Is), accompanied by lazy strings and layered vocal harmonies that whirl with heady effect.  Arch & Point features guitars and a minimal, heavy beat for an edgier take on RnB, whilst …All glitters and sparkles with dramatic impact as the lyrics repeat “I want it all”.  Not every song is a hit – the low-fi Gravity has more of a hip-hop flavour, whilst Where’s The Fun In Forever is a little forgettable.  Yet the complex web of influences, nuance and pop hooks present in each track reflect a musician at the zenith of creativity.

You may not know it yet, but ‘Kaleidoscope Dream’ is one of the top albums of 2012.  Listen now before the year is out.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* Adorn
* Don’t Look Back
* Arch & Point

Listen: 'Kaleidoscope Dream' is available now.

Watch: Miguel comes to the UK in early January.