Los Angelos singer-songwriter Miguel Pimentel gives his R&B style a makeover in his third album Wildheart, a repertoire of witty, spiritual and astral tunes. Named after the nature of Pimentel’s spirit, Wildheart reveals a part of Miguel that is as intense as it is intimate. With Pimentel listed as a writer on each track and a producer on several, it is evident that this is Miguel’s most personal album yet.
The album starts off with edgy guitar and static vocals as Miguel sings his rendition of the overused ‘live fast die young’ motto. The message is a familiar one but the underground, grungy feel that accompanies an R&B sound was new, making “A beautiful exit” a good entrance into Miguel’s impulsive, eccentric, and wild heart. Psychedelic rock, funk and soul fuse together in “Deal”, a hipster R&B track with cosmic scales and distorted guitar riffs, sounding a lot like a high energy Toro y Moi song. Energy is one of the greatest tools he uses in this album. The songs with the most energy tended to also be the most interesting. “The Valley” is filled with vulgar and vivid lyrics and breathy whisper singing until it’s bursting with sexual energy. Saturated with lust, Miguel doesn’t skip out on the dirty details of his love life, giving fans the sensual feelings that they crave from an artist like Miguel. The record “waves” has a psych pop energy that coasts alongside surfer euphemisms as Miguel compares his love-making to the a high stakes water sport. Listeners get their fill of raw emotional energy in “Flesh”, a trippy track that sounds so odd that it’s almost eerie. Displaying his wits with humorous wordplay, Miguel sings lines like “This is body language: deep diction”. When the falsetto crooning hits the sweet spot in between weak and whiny, the vocals express a level of intimacy that almost makes it uncomfortable to listen to in public.
Miguel tries his hand at a myriad of sounds on Wildheart and some of the styles suit him better than others. “Coffee” is a slow, alternative pop song that sounds as though the audience he’s aiming for primarily consists of hopeless romantic teenage girls. “Leave” gives a similar feeling of banality, with its 90s west coast rock meets pop sound. A certain amount of cheesiness is to be expected from an R&B artist, but “face the sun” feels too soft and out of place on this album. Lenny Kravitz makes an appearance in “face the sun” but it’s still not enough to save the song from drowning in mediocrity. Though many of the tracks don’t strike me as exciting, the different musical styles and ideas that Miguel takes on are far from mundane. Miguel entertains listeners in a high register velvety voice in “NWA”, an egocentric song with a percussion heavy beat. This song makes up for its lack of energy in seductive confidence and silky coolness, especially during rapper Kurupt‘s feature. In “what’s normal anyway”, Pimentel sings about the struggles of being someone that doesn’t fit labels very well. Whether it’s a category of racial, social, or financial identity, he finds himself in between all extremes. The song is simple but relatable, making it an interesting listen even if it does lack excitement.
Miguel’s layered vocals, Hendrix-like guitar riffs, and wide-ranging use of sound effects create a virtuosic collection in Wildheart. Pimentel has stated that his next project will be making visuals for the album to complete this musical mission of self-expression. Wildheart is an album intended to be experienced as well as heard. I don’t feel as though that goal has been successfully attained, but I do think it’s not far from the mark. If Miguel puts as much work into the visuals as he did for this album, I have confidence the visuals will give Wildheart the extra push it needs to be a remarkable experience.