Michael Nau lives in a world where “Wall of Sound” drums and delirious, candy-coated melody lines never went out of style. He’s Big Star meets The Bangles atop Phil Spector percussion (without the specter of evil that now surrounds the latter’s name). And while Nau might be somewhat out of place in a pop market that demands “everything and more, all the time,” in another era—like the one his songs hearken back to—he’s a bona fide star.
After moving on from folk projects Page France and Cotton Jones, Nau began releasing records under his own name, starting with Mowing in 2016 and following with Some Twist in 2017. Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread is his most assured release to date, a sparkling, shimmering ode to the multitude of sounds rock music can contain. “Shadow On” is folk rock lite, its simple piano and guitar lines rocking beneath Nau’s voice, which oscillates between sly sarcasm and gentle heartbreak. “No Faraway Star” is a ‘70s rock burner; the fact that its title contains the word “star” is a handy coincidence, as its smoldering blues conjure the Alex Chilton-led power pop heroes. “Funny Wind” is a ballad that pushes against the notion that slower songs need to be drowned in a sense of defeat.
Michael Nau’s music is unassuming, straightforward, and quietly subversive—pop structures reimagined and reorganized under the guise of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a feeling of warmth that radiates outwards from his songs. Perhaps it’s his voice, perhaps the arrangements, but regardless, this effect is quiet, and yet, uniquely powerful; a distinct characteristic of Michael Nau’s music. The quiet strength of craft is never glamorous—but who wants to be a pop star, anyway, when you can make music this good instead?