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War & Leisure is Miguel's most focused effort to date

Miguel has always been smooth, but over the last few years, as he’s allowed some rough edges to show, he’s become all the more interesting. 

At the beginning of his career, it felt a little difficult to determine exactly who Miguel was and where he stood among other male R&B singers. As good as his second album was, Kaleidoscope Dream still felt a little empty, and it wasn’t until 2015’s Wildheart that we began to really get an idea of Miguel as an artist. The soulful, layered production with a strong hip hop influence was refreshingly quirky, which are all traits that continue on War & Leisure, his most focused effort to date.
 
On the summery ‘Pineapple Skies’, the singer namechecks Stevie Wonder, but it’s Wonder’s former labelmate Marvin Gaye (as well as Sly Stone) who is a more apt vocal comparison, as Miguel sounds silky smooth with just the right amount of raw soul power.
 
The production manages to create a pleasing balance between crisp programmed drum sounds, layered instrumentation and ample use of delay and reverb effects that help create a sense of space. Caribbean influences also find their way into several of the tracks, such as the laidback soul of ‘Banana Clip’, while the Travis Scott-featuring ‘Sky Walker’ continues the woozy psychedelic feel showcased on Wildheart standout ‘Coffee’. Guitar – nearly always highly distorted – also features prominently, resulting in an old-school blues-rock feel when combined with the rawness of his delivery, such as on shouter ‘Wolf’, or slow-burn anthem ‘City of Angels’, though the production never feels anything but modern.
 
Miguel has never sounded as sure of himself as here, his sexual come-ons less sleazy and more mature, even when chanting “I wanna f…all night, say it!”, on ‘Come Through and Chill’. Though the subject matter is reliably bedroom-focused, the album finishes with the overtly political ‘Now’, a stripped back ballad in which he addresses the “CEO of the free world”, though the statement doesn’t get much deeper than that.
 
8.5/10