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Michael Novak - Used To Be (self-released)

26 March 2024

For someone “born in a grain bin just outside Volga, South Dakota” and who “grew up with a two-wheel trike, a gravel pit, the town inebriate, hamburgers and a one-arm GI Joe,” Michael Novak seems to have turned out better than such an unpromising start might suggest. He has not only realised his dream to act, write plays, and make music but has done so in a somewhat successful fashion. I would start throwing around words like polymath at this point if I were confident that I knew what it meant.

Given that there just isn’t the space to cover all his myriad endeavours, we will just concentrate on his music here, more specifically, this new single, “Used To Be.” Taken from his second album, Eyes Open Eyes Up, this latest single proves to be a buoyant blast of beat and bounce, a pop-rock salvo running on a stark and staccato, drum tattoo and understated guitars, spacious verses and big, lush choruses.

Wonderfully reflective and painfully honest, this is one of those rare things: a deep, poignant and soul-searching song that doesn’t get you down. And it is that duality of the heart-felt and hard-to-hear lyricism and jaunty pop-rock grooves that create the opposites that attract, which in turn set “Used To Be” apart from the usual “woe-is-me” melancholia.

Why wallow in pathos when you can pack a pop punch? It’s certainly not a trick that Michael Novak falls for.