Miguel War & Leisure

Miguel War & Leisure

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Miguel takes his already-trademark sensuality to incredible new heights on War & Leisure. "Criminal" finds him singing about a degree of pleasure that surely can't be legal over bass and guitar breaks that ooze as much funk as heyday Dr. Dre, while the hypnotic, electronica-infused "Banana Clip" finds him cackling about being trigger-happy and imitating a spraying gun's muzzle — all of it being sexual innuendo, of course.
 
The critically acclaimed 32-year-old Los Angeles crooner is as bold and innovative as ever here, never resting on the laurels of his prior classics Wildheart and Kaleidoscope Dream but instead delving into unfamiliar soundscapes, vocal techniques and lyricism. Take War & Leisure highlight "Wolf," for instance, a bluesy number with a swaggering guitar riff and braying vocal delivery. "Come Through," meanwhile, is a neo soul classic that stands in the same echelon as hits by Miguel's obvious muses like Erykah Badu and Common.
 
Then there's "Told You," which features a rubbery synth line and ricocheting electronica all straight out of the '80s, the latter coinciding snugly with the way Miguel holds the note while singing "I" until it echoes and reverberates for the ages. Irresistible as his singing is on "Told You," though, "Pineapple Skies" finds Miguel in even finer form. On that track he not only holds notes but hoists them to the heavens over a crackling snare and synths that softly sizzle to the fore like heat waves under a rising summer sun.
 
Though he enthusiastically pushes the boundaries of his sound and image on his most eclectic album yet, Miguel also takes care to make each of its tracks insatiably catchy and breezily fun. It's a shame that the release date falls only a few short days after we published our Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums of 2017 list — War & Leisure would have surely snagged a spot. (RCA)