Having dropped ‘Told You So’, ‘Pineapple Skies’ and the heavy-weight collabs, ‘Sky Walker’ with Travis Scott and ‘Come Through And Chill’ alongside J. Cole and Salaam Remi in anticipation of the album, the L.A. maestro has already hinted at its excellence and breadth of styles.
When discussing the new album with Paper Magazine, he says how he thinks ‘it was understanding my body of work and trying to make heads or tails of it’ – Miguel was arguably one of the initiators of the cosmic soul sound that is so popular now form the get go with his debut album, All I Want Is You – combining R&B styles with heavy rock and futuristic production techniques, and was part of the disco chorus guitar club (post 2000), before it became compulsory. The culmination of these genres that we adore, with sprinklings of contemporary hip hop and, of course, the man’s dreamy vocals and lyrics are what we’re getting on his latest release.
There are certainly some chart-top pop-hop numbers among the tracks, although this in no way diminishes the depth of the compositions – ‘Criminal’, featuring Rick Ross, opens the album, and sets the psychedelic , rippling tone, while Pineapple Skies hints at Kygo-esque tropical house, and makes you want to ‘Stevie Wander through the night’ on a starlit summer evening…did he have to bring this out in December?
As I said before, the album is a real smorgasbord of Miguel’s (and our) favourite styles, and the Prince vibes come through strong on tracks like ‘Told You So’ and ‘Caramelo Duro’. The latter is a naughty funky number that we’d love to drop in a set, and translates as ‘Hard Candy’ – cheeky Miguel! My favourite thing about this song is the irresistible chorus line with its divine harmonies – it is so refreshing to hear a modern song with these gorgeous Latin melodies without a relentless reggaeton drum machine, but something equally danceable and boppy.
In contrast with the fun, party flavour of many of the tracks, Miguel frequently uses political statements throughout the album, inciting more serious undertones. Sometimes as a metaphor in ‘Banana Clip’, a love song of protection in the face of violence, or a plot device in ‘City Of Angels’, which imagines a war in L.A., blazing away while Miguel cheats on his lover. The album ends on a heart-wrenchingly powerful piece, ‘Now’, which cries out to the 'CEO of the Free World'. The opening solo guitar is mournful and reflective, and feels like more of a prayer than an angered outburst, even when the song climaxes into the finale of the record.
War & Leisure not only offers clever commentaries on both topics in the album’s title, but is an ideal find for those who find themselves complaining that 'all the tracks sound the same' - no chance of that here. On this one Miguel has really showcased his timeless sound, his ability to keep it up-to-date for the modern listener, and what I can only describe his inspiration manual. Have a listen for some sounds produced by a man who doesn't want to make up his mind what kind of music he wants to make…in the most beautiful way possible!