Mikal Cronin – MCII



Mikal Cronin’s sophomore album is in chunks a very accessible record. It might sound strange coming from an artist who spent the last ten years playing music with garage-rocker Ty Segall and whose solo debut typically sounded like raunchy fuzz-fest of distortion. But MCII finds the 27-years old Californian exploring new grounds, more often than not, turning his electric guitar in for an acoustic one, resulting in ten brilliant songs, ranging from stripped down acoustics to brittle surf-rock.

It’s not that Cronin’s songs sound unique in any way. On the contrary , MCII is rather indebted to the post-grunge movement of the 90’s as well as 70’s garage rock, but Cronin is able to utilize it through an inimitable expression that rarely feels like a trip in a DeLorean. But more importantly; he writes exceptional songs. The album opener “Weight” is one the most heartfelt pop-rock songs of the year, beginning with a beautiful piano chord that shows just how much things have changed since his debut. The distorted guitars do eventually kick in but are pushed way into the back, leaving more room for Cronin’s crispy clear vocals. Like “Weight”, most of the songs on the album balances his power-pop with occasional outbreaks of restrained fury. There are exceptions; the album ends with the piano-folk ballad of the aptly titled “Piano Mantra”, a song that’s hard to believe is from the same guy who contributed on the fuzz-fury of last year’s Slaughterhouse. Instead it rather sounds like Ryan Adams in his most stripped-down naked moments. Similarly, “Don’t Let Me Go” is a vulnerable accoustic ballad, sounding a bit like a restricted (but optimistic) version of Radiohead’s “Creep”.

Cronin seldom leave anything for chance, wrapping his songs niftily with precise instruments, whether it’s violins, pianos, guitars or woodwind – everything has its rightful place. His immaculate instrumental passages on tracks like “Change” or “Turn Away” are full of ambitiously layered harmonies, often staggering towards textures of ominous tension. His lyrics often deal with the an undeniably threatening world through self-reflecting, and at times self-destructive eyes. Things seem to slip away from him and there is always an impending gloom surrounding his topics. “I’m afraid of a distant future / I’m scared that I got no time / I live with a real fear the fear I got won’t go” he sings on “Am I Wrong?”. His poetry is honest and direct, asking himself questions he tries to answer with a quite optimism: “No be bolder, golden light for miles / Sing for love in portion of my mind / I’m not ready for the weight again”, as he reveals in the refrain of “Weight”.

Cronin’s debut was closer to his work with Segall, and while it was enjoyable, MCII stand as the fully realized record of all his irrefutable potentials. It is elegantly arranged from start to finish, balancing out loud-dynamics with emotionally-charged melodies. It’s a milestone in Cronin’s career and the album that should convince any doubters of his talented songwriting, both in terms of lyrics and melodies.

To leave you on a personal note, MCII probably hold this year’s record of most back-to-back spins in a row, and I suspect that it will continue rotating heavily throughout an unforeseen future. With this year being largely about major comebacks and album releases from some of the biggest selling indie bands, there’s a risk of MCII becoming snubbed when it’s time to sum up the year. Hopefully, it won’t be the case.

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