It’s been nearly 13 years since Trail of Dead’s landmark 2002 album Source Tags and …
In a vacuum, it might be difficult to place Michael Rault on a timeline that could stretch from maybe the mid-’60s to as far in the future as they still make guitars and fuzz pedals and shred on them. The Edmontonian rocker certainly does his part to invite this temporal ambiguity, following up his 2015 debut, Living Daylight, with the similarly titled It’s a New Day Tonight, another LP that sounds like it might have been released 40 years ago, or tomorrow.
Between the two albums, however, there is a clear progression, both musically and sonically. Living Daylight revels in its simplicity, wearing the garage-fuzz aesthetic like a lo-fi badge of honor, and while It’s a New Day Tonight certainly doesn’t shy away from that, the songwriting makes use of more complex progressions, rhythms and instrumentation accompanying a more nuanced vocal performance throughout. The production mirrors this added complexity through subtle layering and an overall depth that comes from the live-to-tape recording process done in the Daptone House of Soul in Brooklyn, and although this is hardly the first review to make the comparison, Rault’s development really is akin to the Beatles from Help into Rubber Soul, Revolver and beyond.
Much of the Beatles comparison comes from the way Rault writes melodies and arranges harmonies, which have a distinct Lennon-McCartney feel, especially on cuts like “Oh Clever Boy” and “Dream Song,” but It’s a New Day Tonight also takes notes from contemporary acts, most notably fellow Edmontonian Mac Demarco, whose influence isn’t tough to pick up on in a lot of these songs.
Ultimately, the question posed here is “Is rock really dead, or is it, in fact, immortal?” With It’s a New Day Tonight, Michael Rault makes a compelling case for the latter. In a lot of ways it feels as though he’s treading familiar ground, and criticism of the project is likely to fixate on that familiarity, but from the opening riff of “I’ll Be There,” the album exudes a kind of comforting warmth that can only come from the familiar–the things we know will be there day in and day out, bathed in the light of the newly risen sun.