Not many of us can say we had as productive a 12 months as Michael Marquart. After his deserved Grammy nomination in 2020 for the 5.1 album The Savior, Marquart has returned in 2021 with another strong album, pushing the boundaries of immersive audio once more, and bringing his army of collaborators and bittersweet compositions in a 360 degree platform.

At the point of his ninth studio album, and second release in quick succession, some might assume that A Bad Think’s releases had become formulaic, even manufactured. They would be wrong.

The album opens by showcasing a breezy and wide soundscape in “More Than This.” The breezy guitar anthem has a hint of melancholy, something that becomes a theme throughout Lifelike. Marquart’s There’s gotta be more than this hook is delivered in a signature infectious drawl.

The majority of the tracks are guitar driven, but as we evolve through, new sounds join the party. The bright synths and pounding percussion of “Stay On” bring new dimensions, and show the layering potential of Dolby Atmos.

“Sign of the Times” is a real highlight. If Pink Floyd and Mark Knopfler collaborated in 3D, this is an approximation of what we imagine the result would be, and we love it.

The guitars weave together, understated, effective, and proving that less can indeed be more, even in immersive audio. “Strapped to the Wheel” slows things down with the same sparse guitars, before lush strings build the album back up with a pace and urgency, approaching the home stretch.

The Knopfler guitar style is back in “The Same Old Dream” and “It Never Gets Old” as Marquart perhaps shows that his roots are firmly grounded in the 1980s. On first listen, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a remastering of an LP from 30 or 40 years ago. Herein lies the charm. A Bad Think sits in a unique space between tried-and-tested composition methods and experimental, boundary-pushing mixes. This combination makes for something that manages to be both progressive and incredibly listenable. Songs you could play on a car journey with your parents (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible).

“I Didn’t Know,” “Look at You Now,” and “Never Look Down” showcase a mixing and mastering prowess. Enveloping percussion and layers of strings, piano, and the album’s now-signature guitar paint on a canvas that is noticeably wider and more vibrant. For the audiophile, these later tracks show some of the most subtly impressive mixing.

We close with the appropriately-named, triumphant closer “Nothing Left to Say.” More echoes of Pink Floyd (pun very much intended) as the track is soundscaped with studio cuttings and ambient recordings interspersed with a catchy chorus and up-front vocals. One of those closers that fits neatly at the end of an album, and where a new sound jumps out at you every time.

Expect the plaudits and critics to remain thoroughly on the side of Michael Marquart and A Bad Think. The Lifelike album was no rush job through isolation. It feels like Marquart has perfected the art of songs that remain immediate and catchy, but also showcase the exciting age of mixing and production that we are entering. An accomplished singer and songwriter, along with some selected friends, truly finding their groove.

To learn more about downloading and playing Dolby Atmos files, read our blog here.

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About the Author
Ben is a writer and musician from the UK with a background in music technology. He writes about engineering and production, musicianship and music equipment for a number of publications including his site, Subreel.