Miguel Migs: Outside the Skyline

Miguel Migs, better known as a house DJ and remix artist than a producer of his own material, releases a smooth, slightly better-than-average full-production album in his signature Naked Music style.

Miguel Migs

Outside the Skyline

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2011-09-20
UK Release Date: 2011-09-19

The consensus about Bay Area DJ/producer Miguel Migs seems to be this: He’s an exemplar of the house artist who is basically a groove machine who has all but mastered the creation of soulful sounds but who is limited by the samey-ness of his ideas and apparent recalcitrance to be pulled into the future. Though Outside the Skyline is an OM release and though Migs has a label of his own (Salted), he has become the poster child for Naked Music, the go-to imprint for mid-tempo, world-influenced chillout that has provided the studio for Migs’ DJ mixes and plenty of fodder for techno snobs to deride. In terms of visual allegories to his music, the computer-generated images of sultry young women in reverie on his album covers are about as on the nose as one can get.

Migs, born Miguel Steward, has been a producer since at least the late ‘90s, but Outside the Skyline is only his third proper LP. He’s much better known as a DJ, spinning tunes that sound nearly identical to his own, and as a remix artist. Is Outside the Skyline, which arrives four years after his last full-production album, an evolution in his style? Not even close. But Migs has ironed out the clunky bits and mass-appeal-house clichés of his previous record, Those Things, and has treated his sounds with more vibrancy, which gives Outside the Skyline the air of a more professionally produced and smarter piece than we’re used to hearing from him. It sounds as if Migs took cues from musicians who are one or two rungs above him on the artistry ladder, like Lanu, Jimpster, or Mark de Clive Lowe.

Every track on the record features vocalists, some of whom are typical Naked Music hired hands (Lisa Shaw, Aya) and some of whom are not (Meshell Ndegeocello, dancehall veteran Half Pint). Migs has seemingly tailored his songs somewhat to the style of each of his guests. For instance, Ndegeocello, also an accomplished bass player, claims the record’s two funkiest songs, and Bebel Gilberto gets to wiggle through a samba-house number that actually makes Brazilian electronica sound good again. Migs’ songs continue to buckle from lyrics that are underwhelming even for this genre — something that’s kept him from reaching the heights he otherwise could — but there is enough going on instrumentally to ignore them almost completely.

Though Migs appears to be answering to his creative muse a little bit more than he would on a Naked mix, this record is still more suitable for a party than an extended listening session (i.e., best left in the background). These songs are not growers, and if you aren’t careful, they can coagulate into mush rather quickly. Nevertheless, even small improvements look like leaps in the career of this artist, who has heretofore chosen to wrap himself in the warm blanket of consistency over taking the kinds of risks that stellar albums are often made of. While a few songs fail to make any impression at all, the majority of Outside the Skyline is quite good at what it does, and it raises the stock of not only Miguel Migs, but also, arguably, of Naked Music.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.