Whether straddling an acoustic melody coupled with electropop grooves in “Aright,” working a fuzzy beat with a controlled sense of rhythm in “Wouldn’t Be Love,” striking a balance between the tender melodies of a moderate rock riff and a formidable lead vocal all his own in the title cut of the all-new LP Out Loud, or simply belting out any one of the anthemic verses that this latest release under his best would present us with, Mike Rickard’s confidence is larger than life while his voice is a powerful force to be reckoned with in his most recent studio work, and I’m far from the only critic saying as much this March. From stately pop slow jams to brooding ballads that demand more from his skillset than perhaps any other material he’s released before has, Out Loud covers the very best of what Mike Rickard can do in the studio when there isn’t anything or anyone to come between his talent and the fans he seeks to satisfy with it, and right now, it’s winning him the accolades that he’s long deserved.
I love the basslines in “What Love Looks Like” and the swinging “You’re to Blame,” and while these two tracks offer us different degrees of sonic intensity, I think that the understated modeling of their bottom-end tones definitely worked better with Rickard’s vocal in the long run. His voice has a lot of organic depth that wouldn’t be properly accentuated were it inserted into a weighty composition that saturated the groove with a lot of needless bass excess; in tracks like “Not Finished Yet,” “Sand,” “Wouldn’t Be Love” and “Taste Your Smile,” the rhythm is defined as much by the drums as it is by the melodic thrust of the strings, synth and even Rickard’s own singing, allowing for every element to contribute to the beat. There are a lot of ways that all of these songs could be expanded upon in a live setting because of their flexible arrangements, and my gut tells me someone as ambitious and creative as Mike Rickard is definitely won’t waste the opportunity to experiment even further if he’s provided the right venue in which to do so.
You don’t have to be a pop super-fan to like what Mike Rickard is putting together for fans in his Out Loud LP, but for those of us who appreciate the genre’s mightiest of melodic gems, this is absolutely one of the better discs to come out of the underground scene in the last three years. Songs like “Six Queer Kids,” “Don’t Feed the Ghosts” and “Surrender” have convinced me that we haven’t yet seen or heard what this artist can achieve when his voice is tasked with 90-100% of the heavy lifting in a studio album, and after getting addicted to all three of the aforementioned tracks, I’ve become determined to hear Mike Rickard play some more stripped-down material in the future. With vocal skills like his, he doesn’t need a lot of pomp nor theatrics to make a big impression – all he needs is a mic and an audience to sing to; his bittersweet crooning will take care of the rest.