In his latest album, appropriately titled Out Loud, Mike Rickard avoids the sonic subtleties adopted by many of pop’s biggest players in 2020 in favor of chasing after something as big, bold and colorful as the genre itself is, and although his indulgent melodicism is as removed from the minimalist pop trend as it gets this season, this could be one of the biggest reasons why it’s as memorable a listen as it is. Rickard devotes almost all of his time here to sharpening a lyrical blade that was already one of the deadliest in the underground, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the resulting poetry we find in the music of Out Loud.
Creating a diverse collection of songs is half the battle when trying to construct a pop record that millennials with embrace with open arms, but for Mike Rickard, the entire process comes as second nature in these tracks. While he isn’t shy about employing the same formula when it works well (“Sand,” “You’re to Blame,” “Alright”), there’s rarely an instance where he outright recycles the rhythm of one song to create a foundation for the grooves of another. He’s no one trick pony, and anyone who thought as much prior to now will be singing a very different tune after hearing Out Loud for themselves.
The incredibly passionate “Six Queer Kids” and “Surrender” would likely sound just as poignant were they performed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and Mike Rickard’s lead vocal, and though they’re perfectly enchanting in the state we find them in hear, I think they speak to Rickard’s compositional skill more than they do anything else. He doesn’t need an orchestra behind him to be affective with even the simplest of melodies, and that’s pretty obvious when listening to this pair of heart-wrenching ballads.
I absolutely love the tonality of the percussion in “Don’t Feed the Ghosts” and the title cut, and for this being as vocal-centered an album as it is, that’s quite the boon for Mike Rickard’s reputation for making majestically full-color pop music every time he enters the recording studio to make a new song. Had the instrumental fabric not been mixed to be as complementary of his vocal as it was here, I’m not sure that Out Loud would be the watershed for his discography that it is, but thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what a world without this LP’s elegant finish would look (or sound) like.
Though I’ve admittedly been following Mike Rickard’s career for a hot minute now, I think it goes without saying that Out Loud is definitely his most emotional and comprehensively expressive work to hit record store shelves yet. There are a lot of pop singer/songwriters that would kill to have the kind of natural-born talent he’s working with these days, and while he’s shown himself to be more than capable of evolving and growing with the music he’s composing, I don’t believe he needs to make any changes to this one of a kind sound that is truly his and his alone.