Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Garage Punk
I’ve listened to Mikal Cronin’s sophomore album about 54 times already. (Probably around 61 by the time this review’s published, to be accurate.) That doesn’t say anything else but this: It’s really good. I’ve always championed Ty Segall’s partner-in-crime, and I’ve long felt he’s been the watermelon-flavored yin to Segall’s sour apple yang, but I never even thought he’d have an album like this in him.
Mikal CroninMCII[Merge; 2013]By Brian Hodge; June 4, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetTwenty-seven can be a difficult age. Of course it still safely resides in the roaring twenties of youth, but the horizon of adulthood looms closer and closer. For musicians, the age portends even worse. For Mikal Cronin, 27, this conflict of optimistic innocence versus the angst of aging is more than a convenient trope - on MCII, it’s a dual-edged sword that he brandishes skillfully into a scintillating sophomore record, one stacked with some of the year’s best pop-rock tunes.
Mikal “Don’t Call Him a Prodigy” Cronin may not be as prolific as collaborator Ty Segall, but he’s just as much a natural talent. The songwriter is only two albums deep into a solo career, but he’s already a master at crafting perfect passels of power-pop. He most likely hears the totality of a song in his head before even reaching for the pick.
"Do I shout it out?/ Do I let it go?/ Do I even know what I'm waiting for?/ No, I want it now/ Do I need it, though?" Throughout MCII, Mikal Cronin gets in these ruts. His lyrics are delivered as someone who's never fully sure of his next move and who's completely unclear about his ambitions. He's sure that he's in love, but he keeps letting it slip away.
Mikal Cronin is a creature of his environment—sunny, foggy, fickle, evocative. Cronin is the latest export from the San Francisco psychedelic/garage scene that has yielded some of the most intriguing American rock of the past five years (Girls, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, The Fresh & Onlys). Far from formulaic, Cronin’s sophomore release, MCII, is a nuanced collage of quintessentially “California” pop songs—or, at the very least, how the rest of the country perceives such songs to look and feel.
Mikal Cronin’s reputation as one of the leading lights of the current neo-garage-rock craze precedes itself, but you might start rethinking any assumptions about his music and the genre he’s associated with when you hear the solitary piano chords intro’ing “Weight”, the opening number on his latest effort MCII. That’s because, before any expectations for MCII can fully set in, Cronin is already breaking all preconceptions, coming out of the gate with the album’s most relentlessly catchy, fully realized guitar-pop confection on a disc brimming over with ‘em. Sure, there’s an intuitive and spontaneous feel to the song that screams DIY basement rock, plus a scratchy layer of fuzz coating the buzzsaw guitars to boot, but what you really notice about “Weight” is how impeccably composed it is, as Cronin strikes a balance between feedbacky chaos and a developed beginning-middle-end structure adorned with orchestrated touches like bounding piano and swooping strings.
San Francisco’s Mikal Cronin is an artist who revels in defying expectations. Through his work playing in long time ally Ty Segall’s band, as well as his self-titled 2011 debut, Cronin has been pegged in some quarters as a mere fuzz rock garage revivalist. MCII is a far more nuanced and developed follow up that sees the multi-instrumentalist broadening his sound while retaining an irresistible power pop quality.
Residence in the US garage-pop underground is usually predicated on a certain level of refusenik guitar scuzz. Catapulting out of the San Francisco scene is Mikal Cronin, frequent crony of the slightly more famous Ty Segall. Cronin's shiny, happy second album packs a surfeit of melody, an unexpected boogie-woogie piano solo, some violin, key changes to punch the air to, and references to Nirvana fed through the forthcoming disposition of the Lemonheads.
It’s getting to be that time of year here on the Jersey shore where all the shiftless, wanna-be surfers start skipping out on class in favor of hitting the rocky sands of the beachfront. Indeed, being a stones throw away from the beach itself, it seems that with every passing day, fewer and fewer of my classmates remain in the lecture halls that have now become my eternal, academic tomb. Truth be told, I’m not particularly missing any of my “peers”, but I definitely envy them on some level.
“…we should say that eloquence is heard, poetry is overheard. Eloquence supposes an audience; the peculiarity of poetry appears to us to lie in the poet’s utter unconsciousness of a listener. Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself…”– from “What it Poetry?” by John Stuart Mill “The songs are all dialogues with myself.”– Mikal Cronin, on MCII I can’t say much about how Mikal Cronin was brought up, but John Stuart Mill was raised on a steady diet of Jeremy Bentham — “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” — and yet it was poetry, steeped so deeply in the irrationality of art, that saved his life.
Mikal Cronin's 2011 solo debut was full of noisy garage rock, a collection of scuzzy, lo-fi tunes that explored the iconography of '60 psych. It's a debut that never moved out of the shadow of its influences, any shade of Cronin's songwriting ability drowned in layers of distortion and reverb. With MCII, Cronin sheds much of the fuzz for a more balanced and polished approach, resulting in one of the most consistent and rewarding albums of the year so far.
Mikal Cronin is cautiously optimistic for the future. On sophomore solo release MCII, the Ty Segall collaborator mixes wistful pop with fuzzed-out guitar rock to celebrate the advent of life's new directions, even if they're haunted by the shadows of the past. A move to San Francisco and the end of a long relationship have seen Cronin's life change quite significantly in the past year, and on MCII, he sounds invigorated yet somehow apprehensive about his new place in the 21st century.
MIKAL CRONIN plays the Silver Dollar June 13 to 15 as part of NXNE. See listing. Rating: NNNN When an artist from a tight-knit scene breaks out on an international scale, it's not uncommon to see a ripple in the community that birthed him or her. That's good news for Mikal Cronin, whose work as a frequent collaborator with and bandmate of rising California garage rocker Ty Segall has lent him a modest platform of his own.
If Mikal Cronin had a lot going on in his life (exiting college, a relationship, and life in L.A.) around the release of his 2011 debut album, MCII is the sound of someone who moved on and found solid ground. Aside from a few guest contributions, including Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees' Petey Dammit, Cronin played everything on a record that sounds like just the thing to reach for as warmer weather settles in. .
If you only know Mikal Cronin as a member of Ty Segall's band, you might be in for a shock on his debut album for Merge, 2013's MC II. If you picked up Cronin's self-titled 2011 album on Trouble in Mind, you might also be in for a bit of a surprise. See, Cronin doesn't go in for noise freakouts or skuzzy garage rock -- he's more of a power popper with an ear for a pretty melody.
The idea that record sleeves should carry some kind of cautionary sticker against explicit material has always had the stench of the ridiculous about it but in the case of Mikal Cronin's second solo collection, a health warning really would come in handy because, and make no mistake, this gem of an album is probably as addictive as crack cocaine. Probably best known for supplying the low end with Ty Segall Band, Cronin is now stepping into the well-deserved limelight with a record packed with hook-laden melodies so gloriously bright they would have banished the extended winter had they appeared several months ago, as well as crunching fuzz guitars and a delirious sense of joy that belies some of the heartache contained within these golden nuggets. Moreover, while looking to a past of snot-nosed rock & roll originated in garages in the wake of The Rolling Stones' initial storming of America, Cronin has enough grounding in the present to ensure that this isn't a mere trawl through someone else's nostalgia.
Earlier last week I randomly rediscovered Ty Segall's Twins, the third in his parade of full-lengths from last year. Coincidentally, MCII, the sophomore LP of Segall's buddy bandmate Mikal Cronin, was also released around that time. I'm sure Cronin has gotten has gotten tired of continuously being labeled as Segall's bandmate, but the connection really bleeds through and makes sense.
“I’ve been startin’ over for a long time,” confesses Mikal Cronin at the very beginning of ‘MCII’. If the title didn’t give it away, this is his second solo album, and with it comes a new kind of a maturity. Alongside fuzzy guitars are doses of sunny pop, with Cronin having clearly mastered the art of loud-quiet songs – just listen to ‘Shout It Out’.And lyrically, here’s a guy who’s finally stepping into the limelight, whether he’s sure he’s ready to or not.