Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It’s easy to take for granted that an artist will keep developing and making advancements each time out, as if one’s discography is in line with the progressive theory of history. While Mikal Cronin’s career definitely seems to continue on its upward trajectory with MCIII, his new album also gets across the point that he doesn’t assume that taking the next step is just the natural course of things, but rather part of a process that’s hard earned and never a given. That’s the sense you get when you hear MCIII open with a crescendo of strings, fuzzy guitar, and galloping piano on “Turn Around”, as Cronin uses everything at his disposal to bring his pop intuition into full fruition on his latest effort: The most fleshed-out piece of power-pop he’s come up with to date, “Turn Around” isn’t only a testament to Cronin’s knack for conjuring up an earworming tune, but also to his constantly evolving craftsmanship, as he layers so many elements in a way that allows the kernel of a melody he starts with to flourish rather than get buried.
Going big is usually the stumbling block for any artist or band who started off small. Blowing up the arrangements, slicking up the production, or adding scores of extra instruments often does more harm than good, shining a harsh light on a lack of songwriting ideas or just making things seem so huge that the human element gets lost in the shuffle. Mikal Cronin's third album, MCIII, is the result of his efforts to go big, and in his case the gamble pays off big-time, resulting in his most pleasing record to date.
He’s just doing this so he can eventually put out a record called MC5, isn’t he? Three albums in, and Mikal Cronin is still naming ‘em after himself. There’s nothing wrong with that—it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a narcissist, and even if he is, well, he’s basically a rock star, so it’s expected. The lack of a real album title actually forces fools like me to do our jobs a bit more thoroughly and not use some words slapped on the cover as a crutch, like some kind of key to the coded messages within the music, or whatever.
Mikal Cronin has said that he wanted his third album "to sound heavy, but heavy in more of a pop way," and it does; it's a beautifully arranged pop record, complete with string-and-voice compositions ("Different"), horns ("Alone") and a solo on a Greek stringed instrument called a tzouras ("Gold"). But to talk only of these things on MCIII is like talking only about the decorative icing frills and plastic couple on a three-story wedding cake. It's the construction here, the way Cronin has put it all together, that makes it special; it's the songs.Cronin has always known his way around a melody, but on MCIII, he's refined it to a needle's point and woven that skill throughout a collection of immaculately written songs.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Across his remarkably consistent discography, Mikal Cronin has explored the darkest depths of heartbreak, paranoia, and insecurity in a way that removes any distance between himself and the listener. And musically, Cronin has always aimed straight for the senses, as if the quickest route to our ears, minds and hearts can also be the most affecting.
After touring as Ty Segall’s sometime bassist, slacker-indie gent Mikal Cronin shot to attention with fantastic melodic alt-pop second album ‘MCII’ in 2013. His third record is gentler – horns, elegant pianos and strings circle charging chariots like ‘Turn Around’, ‘Feel Like’ and ‘Say’, and the 29-year-old’s dense grunge guitar now sounds rather less like a tanker speeding unstable nuclear waste towards the coast. Instead, there’s a certain Springsteen-like Americana to tracks like ‘Made My Mind Up’ and, elsewhere, Cronin’s knack for languid songwriting is enhanced by adding more opulence, particularly on the lovely, emotionally stirring ‘I’ve Been Loved’, on which he sings “I’ve been lucky enough to find love of a different kind”.
Mikal Cronin’s sophomore solo album, MCII, taught us that the longhaired multi-instrumentalist best known for his scuzzy musical exploits alongside garage rock cohort Ty Segall cleans up nicely. Even though the sandy, Beach Boys-reminiscent arrangements and harmonies of debut opener “Is It Alright” hinted at a pop side lurking beneath the waves of fuzz, nobody could have expected Cronin to burst forth so confidently on MCII with a collection of unapologetically clean-running power pop. More importantly, though, he crafted an album that any fellow twentysomething could relate to.
Mikal Cronin's stated ambition for his third full-length? "Go big." One spin of this one and it's pretty clear he did: the arrangements are hyped-up and lush, the harmonies are soaring, and there is at least one bona fide prog opus ("Gold," on which Cronin employs a Greek tzouras he picked up on tour for a breakdown worthy of dancing druids). .
Mikal Cronin is a 29-year-old Californian musician and a serial collaborator. To date, he’s recorded and performed with garage rock wunderkind Ty Segall and contributed to albums, singles and EPs by four other bands. He’s also released solo albums of which MCIII is, naturally enough, the third. These three records have revealed that Cronin is just as good at writing tuneful powerpop songs as he is at thrashing away at a guitar.
On "Turn Around", the opening track and lead single on MCIII, Mikal Cronin sings some sweet bromides about the passing of time. His lyrics are punctuated by little directives, like "Turn it down," "stop," or "turn around," "here it goes," and the arrangement seems to be responding to him, amping up or quieting down depending on the line. Without a devastating hook—like the one on "Weight", the opening track and lead single from Cronin’s 2013 full-length, MCII—it feels a bit like listening to stage instructions from a power pop song to be finished later, a rote rehearsal from a tired director.
The two halves of Mikal Cronin’s third LP collide on the first song of what we once called Side B, “i) Alone,” which also serves as a sort of highlight reel: Cronin’s career arc in three minutes or less! Shivering with violin ripples and the warm horns of an especially meaningful sunrise, “i) Alone” abruptly zooms back in on the San Francisco singer-songwriter’s closely mic’d voice, buttressed with gentle acoustic strums. Eventually they build to a fuzzy power-drill of noise we’ve come to expect from the Ty Segall collaborator, recalling the more melodic moments of his self-titled solo debut in 2011. “Some of these songs,” Cronin told SPIN of MCIII, “would have been a very extreme thing for me to do years ago, when I was still coming out of garage rock, and wanting to be loud and fucked up.
Mikal Cronin might not be the best-known of California’s latterday garage-rock pack, but he is perhaps the keenest to experiment. On his third album, MCIII, you can practically hear him rubbing his hands with glee as he stuffs his songs with joyous strings and horns, which couch his most emphatic and vulnerable moments. In places, the effect is of an orchestral, almost claustrophobic Shins in its singalong simplicity.
Few albums start as triumphantly as Mikal Cronin's newest: a bracing blast of symphonic epicness set against the Laguna Beach singer/songwriter's trademark sunny, laid-back style. The soaring violin quartet - as well as the French horn, sax and trumpet - is new for him, or at least way more pronounced. (Also new: he chopped off his long hair.) It's hard to say why he decided to go so big on this third album (it might be an attempt to move beyond the psych rock and indie stages he usually frequents), but it works surprisingly well with his 'verbed-out fuzz rock.
It no longer seems fair to speak of Mikal Cronin’s solo work as though it’s some sort of Ty Segall Band sideshow. It was never really fair to begin with: his eponymous debut packed more than enough merit to establish his solo capabilities, even if it didn’t grip with quite the precariousness of 2013’s MCII. Still, the kinship is evident, and it never feels quite right to proceed without note of his bond to former touring mate/Reverse Shark Attack collaborator Ty Segall.
opinion by ZACH BERNSTEIN It’s rare these days to hear a new rock album that a) arrives free of irony, cynicism, or gimmickry and b) you know, rocks. The first example that comes to mind is Japandroids’ 2012 firecracker Celebration Rock. Mikal Cronin’s third solo effort MCIII is another such record. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense collection rooted in various strains of rock history.
Born from the same freak scene that immaculately conceived prolific front men like John Dwyer and Ty Segall, the more unassuming Mikal Cronin—who has long collaborated with his pal Segall, both live and on record—has been just as keen on playing both master and puppets with his solo work. Beginning with his great 2011 self-titled debut, which is finely polished with the same West Coast garage scuzz his contemporaries bathe in, Cronin has played most (if not all) of the instruments on his albums. And though he still fills the majority of the first chairs on the new MCIII, the record is so awash in its own lushness—occasionally sounding like the orchestra pit of strings and horns Merge has on retainer has tripled in size—that it seems unimaginable even the most versatile songwriter could cram that many music stands into a practice space.
Scuzzed San Francisco pedigree or no, multi-instrumentalist Mikal Cronin's critical path always arced toward aspirant pop. The Ty Segall compatriot employs full-bodied arrangements and summit-cresting guitar solos to craft a grand statement on solo LP three. Roiling strings drive "Turn Around," an exclamatory overture sabotaged by lack of resolution, while the cruise-controlled cowbell clip of "Say" summons open roads.
MCIII marks the third solo out of the chute from multi-instrumentalist and brilliant popster, Mikal Cronin, whose name may ring a bell with some for his past work with Ty Segall. I believe that the most helpful touchstone to help newbies connect with his music would be to suggest Elliot Smith, circa Figure 8. The first playing of MCIII sort of threw me with all its sumptuous strings and brass arrangements.
Mikal Cronin — MCIII (Merge)The first half of Mikal Cronin’s latest album follows closely in the mold of his previous, down to the titles: replace “II” with “III” and there you go, as if it’s simply one step after the other. MCII was met with great acclaim, and Cronin seemed to be the popster amidst San Francisco’s garage rock scene, part of that circle but with a more ornate approach to his music. Songs like “Peace of Mind” and “Don’t Let Me Go” made that album a memorable one, a terrific blend of rock energy and slightly backward-looking pop sensabilities.