The already-tiresome media narrative of a possible rivalry (“beef,” if you will) between fellow Los Angeles stars Frank Ocean and Miguel is at least a reminder that Channel Orange wasn’t the only R&B album of 2012 to put a serious spin on the genre. Kaleidoscope Dream was Miguel’s breakout album, a supremely confident and lean piece of work that highlighted its creator’s idiosyncrasies as much as his obvious star quality. It had one of the great seduction pop songs in the shape of “Adorn,” and it set a pretty high bar for the young artist, which he attempts to clear on Wildheart.

If that last album was Miguel’s coming-of-age as an artist, then Wildheart is surely the attempted home run of a record. Richer sounding, more sexualized and vulnerable, and at times much stranger than its predecessor, it sees Miguel still caught in some weird and thrilling netherzone between natural born star and outsider artist. If you’re looking for a sequel to “Adorn,” I give you “Coffee,” an oddly sweet ode to what comes after a long night of passion, namely a fresh caffeinated beverage and presumably being treated with respect (“I don’t want to wake you / I just want to watch you sleep” being the notable morning after desire).

Stream-Miguels-Wildheart-LP

Casting Miguel as a hound dog oversimplifies what makes him so interesting. On the likes of “The Valley,” he does come across that way, but the delivery is undercut with a little deadness that stands in contrast with the passion of “Coffee.” As ever, Miguel’s voice is a spectacular instrument, with a strength and range that allows him to go for the big moments and regularly risk ridicule without ever actually getting there. That is never more evident than on the huge Lenny Kravitz-assisted climax of “Face The Sun,” which ends up sounding amazing when it should sound terrible.

Wildheart’s production never lapses into a particular rhythm either. There’s no complacency in evidence, and the album is littered with fine moments. The way that “DEAL” quickly slips from a slow jam into a strutting groove and the guitar line that slinks its way through “NWA” are evidence of the complex musical mind operating behind that voice. The upbeat dance rhythm of “Waves” is accentuated with a rare multi-part harmony, and most startling of all is the naked vulnerability of “What’s Normal Anyway,” the closest this album has to the stripped-down, emotionally naked Miguel of “Pussy Is Mine.”

Over the course of these dozen songs and one brief interlude (unless you happen to have picked up the expanded deluxe edition), Miguel has somehow managed to surpass the consistent high quality of his last album and created a dazzlingly successful alternative R&B record. And yet I wouldn’t call it his masterpiece, simply because I get the feeling in the album’s best moments that he has an all-timer in him further down the line. Watching a young artist in a regularly dull pop genre not only find his voice but understand just how much he can do with it is exciting, and it’s nice to be onboard the journey.

Miguel Tour Dates:

07/13 – REVOLT Live – Hollywood & Highland – Los Angeles, CA
07/24 – Emo’s Austin – Austin, TX
07/25 – South Side Music Hall – Dallas, TX
07/26 – The Ballroom at Warehouse Live – Houston, TX
07/28 – The Joy Theater – New Orleans, LA
07/29 – The Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
07/31 – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
08/01 – College Street Music Hall – New Haven, CT
08/02 – Terminal 5 – New York, NY
08/04 – House of Blues Boston – Boston, MA
08/05 – Starland Ballroom – Sayreville, NJ
08/07 – The Space at Westbury – Westbury, NY
08/08 – The Music Box at The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa – Atlantic City, NJ
08/09 – State Theatre – Portland, ME
08/11 – Sound Academy – Toronto, Canada
08/12 – Royal Oak Theatre – Royal Oak, MI
08/14 – Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
08/15 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
08/16 – Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland – Kansas City, MO
08/18 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
08/19 – The Depot – Salt Lake City, UT
08/21 – Roseland Theater – Portland, OR
08/22 – Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, Canada
08/23 – Showbox SoDo – Seattle, WA
08/25 – Fox Theater – Oakland, CA
08/26 – The Majestic Ventura Theater – Los Angeles, CA
08/28 – Drai’s Nightclub – Las Vegas, NV
09/01 – The North Park Theatre – San Diego, CA
09/02 – Warner Grand Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
09/04 – Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA
09/26 – Landmark Festival – Washington, DC
09/27 – Landmark Festival – Washington, DC
09/29 – Falconer Theatre – Copenhagen, Denmark
09/30 – Sentrum Scene – Oslo, Norway
10/02 – Annex – Stockholm, Sweden
10/04 – Große Freiheit 36 – Hamburg, Germany
10/05 – Paradiso Grote Zaal – Amsterdam, Netherlands
10/07 – L’Olympia – Paris, France
10/09 – Kaufleuten – Zurich, Switzerland
10/10 – Gibson – Frankfurt, Germany
10/11 – E-Werk Köln – Cologne, Germany
10/13 – O2 Academy Brixton – London, United Kingdom
10/15 – O2 Academy Birmingham – Birmingham, United Kingdom
10/18 – Manchester Academy – Manchester, United Kingdom
10/24 – Soulfest 2015 – Sydney, Australia
10/25 – Soulfest 2015 – Melbourne Vic, Australia
10/26 – Soulfest 2015 – Auckland, New Zealand

For more info:

Miguel