Michael Rault Hits His '70s Stride on Self-Titled Album
Published Jun 14, 2022The album called Michael Rault sees our titular hero finding yet another gear in the studio, but it didn't come easy. Born in Edmonton, Rault wrote most of his eponymous LP after leaving his partner, his manager, his touring band, and his twenties. Amidst these impactful endings, he sequestered himself in his Montreal bedroom studio, where the bulk of the album was written over a handful of snowy months.
Rault's prowess as a songwriter, musician and producer has grown exponentially since the late '00s. Charting a path from the lo-fi R&B and rockabilly swing of 2010's Ma-Me-O through the unflinching power pop polish and psych rock swagger of 2015's Living Daylight, his talent and vision have always been apparent. He joined Daptone-associated Wick Records for 2018's It's a New Day Tonight, further eschewing juvenile snarl in favour of mature pop-rock radio sweetness. Continuing the trend, his eponymous album perfects that chill, progressive '70s yacht rock feel with its lush harmonies, sugary hooks and bright, roomy analog sound.
"Right on Time" may be the greatest baroque pop song Scott Walker never made, with its haunting harpsichord, loping bass line and boom-bap beat providing the sonic depth to match the ennui and gratitude expressed in its lyrics. The warm bass tone, plinky piano, and soaring strings of "Exactly What I Needed" come off like Harry Nilsson flipping Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Our House." Opening with the evocative line "I lie beside your bed as he moves in you fully / angry sky and angry sea, I let the waves subdue me," rarely has anyone requesting to be "strung up, drawn and quartered" sounded so grateful for the opportunity, repeatedly insisting he's fine with such strange conviction. It's a fascinating juxtaposition, echoing the complex sentiment and superlative style of "Right on Time." These are not simple love songs; the struggle is real.
Boasting percussion and synthesizer from Mac DeMarco, "Neither Love Nor Money" has its funky beat and Clavinet evoking classic period Stevie Wonder even before the horn section arrives, care of trumpeter Billy Aukstik and sexy sax man Freddy DeBoe. The staccato organ and wistful vocals of "When I'm Back In Town" clearly suggest Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys (an homage hammered home when the surfy backing vocals kick in) while "Inside Your Heart" brilliantly employs the jangly alternative country guitar tone and ghostly harmonies that the Byrds discovered eight miles high.
If you made up a Rodriguez-esque story about Michael Rault — that he released his eponymous album back in the '70s and somehow only ended up being huge in the Netherlands — it could easily fool people. To be clear, this endlessly replayable album does not merely sound like all of the aforementioned comparisons, hysterical as they may appear. It sounds like it is them, while also being unmistakably Michael Rault. There is a timeless quality to the peculiar music and lovelorn lyrics. Full of confidently unsure ballads which capture all the nuance between agony and ecstasy, like the dark side of Tin Pan Alley or the thirteenth floor of the Brill Building, this is the art that lasts. (Majesticsilk)