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Album Review: Miguel - 'Kaleidoscope Dream'

Highly Original

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Album Review: Miguel - 'Kaleidoscope Dream'
Although Kaleidoscope Dream is only the second full album by Los Angeles singer-songwriter Miguel, he's steadily unleashed a stream of music since his 2010 debut album, All I Want is You. This year alone, he's put out five three-songs EPs leading up to the Oct. 2, 2012 release of this album. But if you thought that putting out so much original music would tend to dampen his creativity, the exact opposite has happened. Kaleidoscope Dream is a highly original collection of songs that sounds nothing like anything that any other urban music artist out there is doing today. Miquel has found his own lane of eclectic, artsy R&B-pop music, and he clearly relishes the ability to create songs that sound completely different from the pack of trend-hopping contemporary artists out there trying to stay relevant.

Shifting Patterns

If you've heard any or all of Miguel's Art Dealer Chic series of free EPs, which he dropped in the Spring of 2012, then you pretty know what to expect with this release. If there was ever a title that perfectly described an album's content, Kaleidoscope Dream is it. As advertised, the album is sort of a musical kaleidoscope, filled with shifting patterns, some of which are familiar, while others are new and unusual. And the 'Dream' portion of the title is fitting in that most of the individual songs, and the album as a whole, has a sort of dreamlike feel to it. The sonic landscape has sort of a hazy, ethereal quality that sometimes occurs when deep in slumber. The most obvious example of his creative prowess is the album's first and best song, "Adorn." The sexy song has a basic message of lust, but instead of going the simple route and singing lyrics like how he wants to put his body on yours, he goes for the artful, more tasteful approach and croons about how much he wants to adorn your body like a piece of clothing.
He also manages to get sexy without being too nasty on "Arch and Point," where he commands his woman to position her body a certain way; the hypnotic "Do You," where he sings about wanting to 'do' a woman like drugs; and the sensual "Use Me," where he sings lyrics like "I'm overwhelmed by tasty thoughts of you." And even when he gets down and dirty on the album's one explicit song, "P...y is Mine," he somehow still manages to sound like a gentleman.

A Cohesive Package

One of the more impressive things about Kaleidoscope Dream is the creative growth Miguel has undergone since his debut. Although it was pretty clear with All I Want is You in 2010 that he was a talented and creative artist to keep an eye on and ear out for, he still hadn't quite begun to peak as a singer. And although this album does shown much more strength in the vocals department, Miguel's also smart enough now to utilize production techniques to minimize his shortcomings. Instead of trying to shoehorn his vocal style into a certain mold, the songs seem tailor-made for the artist, and thus are better fits.
Another impressive attribute is that Miguel obviously didn't feel obligated to try to create any songs that hops on contemporary music trends. Instead, the songs here sound like they were put together organically, piece by piece over a reasonable amount of time, and not thrown together as quickly and cheaply as possible by the hot producers of the moment. Kaleidoscope Dream is something that's becoming more and more rare in urban music today: it's a cohesive package that has a consistent, connected sound all the way through with no wild swings in mood, tone or tempo. This album, which is enjoyable from beginning to end, is easily one of the better R&B albums of the year.
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