While the churning beats inside of Mike Rickard’s “Don’t Feed the Ghosts,” “Alright,” and “Taste Your Smile,” all of which can be found on his incredible album Out Loud, are undisputedly captivating in every way that a percussive element can be, but compared to the vocal Rickard is throwing down in all three of these songs, they’re nowhere even close to being the focal point of the music. Out Loud is multilayered pop music at its finest, but even at its most instrumentally stirring, the crown jewel of this treasure chest of tonality is always our leading man’s rousing, and often virtuosic, voice.
As far as the instrumentation is concerned, this record certainly isn’t without plenty of fireworks worth writing home about this spring. The progressive “Not Finished Yet,” cinematically chilling title track and “You’re to Blame” speak volumes about the emotion in Rickard’s lyrics without his ever singing a single word, and though some songs – like “Sand,” for instance – require a certain amount of grandiosity from his vocal, he never translates as being self-indulgent in any of his performances here; in fact, quite the opposite indeed. Selflessness is a rare attribute among pop singers, but for Mike Rickard, it’s at the foundation of every song he records.
The grooves are definitely quite intoxicating in “Wouldn’t Be Love” and “What Love Looks Like,” but when reviewing both of these compositions, I think it would be criminal not to point out how texturally expressive they are – mostly though their guitar parts (especially in the case of the latter track). Out Loud was mixed with a keen attention to even its most minor of sonic intricacies, and as a result of the squeaky-clean production quality, there isn’t a stitch of Rickard’s rich musicality that ends up sacrificed in the name of making the album more accessible to the masses.
The tear-jerking ballads “Surrender” and “Six Queer Kids” didn’t need quite as much polish as they were ultimately afforded here, but at the same time, I think I can appreciate the glossy finish for the ironic agency it lends some the lyrics in these two tracks. A song like “Six Queer Kids” definitely doesn’t need any extra varnish to make a cratering impression on any and all who listen to its crushing lyrical content, but if the goal here was to create an additional layer of emotionality via the juxtaposition of raw verses and ultra-slick melodies, it’s a homerun out of the park without debate.
Those who have never heard the music of Mr. Mike Rickard would be wise to give his discography a close examining this March starting with his latest release in Out Loud. Out Loud is a statement record, an identity piece if you will, and while I doubt it’s going to be the last album Rickard releases to the widespread acclaim of both listeners and critics around the globe, I think it’s a fine way of getting to know his artistic persona, and more specifically, the good he wants to accomplish with his many gifts.