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Kaleidoscope Dream Alfred Soto , October 16th, 2012 05:51

He may like drugs and hugs, but Miguel Pimentel must love good press too. After a tentative 2010 debut album still managed to send 'Sure Thing'-one of the greatest singles of the last ten years to not do a thing on pop radio- to the top of the R&B chart, the range of sonic ideas, fully realized songs, and prodigious vocal talent on Kaleidoscope Dream arrives as the most pleasant of shocks.

A shock, yes, but we were warned. An EP trilogy called Art Dealer Chic, each entry dropping approximately every six weeks last spring, tested a couple of Kaleidoscope Dream's best tracks and hinted that the straightforward balladry of 'Sure Thing' was only one of the tricks he could turn. The tense power pop of 'Arch N Point', on which neither the guitar nor Miguel himself never quite reach the expected climax, was the highlight, with 'Adorn', a love-you-down as wet and lubricious as Voodop-era D'Angelo, a close second. Both appear on Kaleidoscope Dream, recontextualized and, in the case of 'Adorn', remodeled. It now boasts an extra minute of music that crystallizes what distinguishes him from most male singers: joy in performance, joy in what he's getting away with. Miguel makes them look callow. This joy leavens the often brooding nature of the backing tracks.

A singer surprised by joy also revels in being the passive one as long as he can still growl. Like Bill Withers, he's got a number named 'Use Me' - a less amiable one. Echo-laden guitar and wave after wave of crashing metronomic percussion as menacing as a loop on Massive Attack's Mezzanine cushion a lovestoned Miguel, multitracked into infinity, overwhelmed by tasty thoughts of her. Picking out the most rudimentary chordal pattern on an electric guitar and singing at the top of his range on the quiet, spare 'Pussy is Mine', he sounds impatient if not frightened; he's encouraging himself, for his ears only. When words fail him on 'Where's The Fun in Forever', he scats. Reducing Alicia Keys into a subliminal sound effect on this track, by the way, is one of Miguel and producer Pop & Oak's canniest moves. Who needs her for soul injection when you can do it your own bad self?

Wiz Khalifa on the remix of 'Adorn' aside, it's a rarity for a contemporary R&B album to acknowledge the superfluity of guest singers and rappers; and when Miguel hires Jerry Duplessis for 'Do You...' it's to apply a retro lacquer (slap bass!) to 2000's coltishness. When a couple of skeptics recoiled from the equating of drugs and hugs, I reminded them that the aw-shucks squeal that Miguel puts into the line “Me too!” mitigates the effrontery. In Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel articulates how a love man can be louche without being a douche.