“Out Loud” by Mike Rickard

Honest emotion and pop music don’t always mix well, particularly when it comes to making something that a large audience is going to relate to, but that’s hardly the case with Mike Rickard’s new album Out Loud. In Out Loud, pop singer/songwriter Mike Rickard shows us that sometimes, in order to fashion a trademark sound for yourself, you have to step outside the creative boundaries that so many of your peers have built their entire careers around, and that’s exactly what he does here. In songs like “Six Queer Kids” and “What Love Looks Like,” Rickard wears his heart on his sleeve and experiments with compositional themes found in rock, pop, R&B and even surreal electronica hybrids, and, as I see it, subsequently delivers some of the most endearing music to debut from an underground source in years.

Aside from the lyrics we find in Out Loud, the very tone of Rickard’s lead vocal in the songs “Taste Your Smile,” “Surrender,” “Sand” and “Alright” clues us into his frame of mind as both a singer and just as a human being in general more than words ever could on their own. By utilizing both his own end of the harmonies as well as that of his backing band in tracks like these, he sets up the mood of the music long before we ever come in contact with any sort of cathartic hooks (which is typically what pop material like this is constructed around). He’s using every tool at his disposal here, but stopping short of overwhelming us with detail.

The master mix in this record is easily as muscular as any of the melodies in “Wouldn’t Be Love,” the title track and “You’re to Blame” are, and in other songs like “Taste Your Smile” and “Not Finished Yet,” I think it makes it easier for us to cling to the rolling grooves that comprise the very backbone of the verses here. It would be interesting to find out how well these tracks translate in person, and further, to see how Rickard would broach their arrangements on the stage. There are a multitude of ways he could break these compositions down for an audience, and if given some room to jam a little, I think he could even manage to squeeze a bit more excitement out of every rhythmic pulsation their beats produce.

With all of the pain and misery filling the world’s nightly news in recent times, I personally feel that what we hear in Mike Rickard’s Out Loud is precisely the kind of pop music we need more of in 2020. Rickard gets raw and real with his emotions in this album, and though self-awareness is the most common element tethering all of his new songs together, I didn’t find a single component within Out Loud that I would describe as being egocentric in the slightest. This is a singer and songwriter who can read the human condition like few others in his genre can, and that alone makes him a very important player in today’s modern pop beat.

Michael Rand

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