As we pass the half-way mark in 2013, the same feeling occurs as it does every year - where did the last six months go? After listening to Mikal Cronin's sophomore album MCII over the summer, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll be having this feeling for the next 60 years - if I make it that far. MCII connects Cronin to a new audience. It's certainly grown thanks to word of type. Ty Segall's backing man took what he knew and created an album just as intimate as last year’s Perfume Genius, but as upfront and textured as Alt-J. So as the back half of 2013 begins, lets take a look at the anthem-filled album that takes us over the last six months, and through the next six.
MCII ticks all the boxes initially, but Cronin's second album still needs the eventual tick-off from the long-haul long-term listen. Now in my double digit listens, MCII appears just as fresh and juicy as a mid-summer album should be. It sways from garage rock to a poppy simplicity that Best Coast failed to master in two efforts. Cronin uses prior knowledge of contributing to engineer his own album from ground up. Apart from two guitar solo inclusions from Segall, MCII is all the work of Cronin. Each guitar riff, distortion stamp and piano jolt is Cronin working efficiently in Tame Impala-esque fashion. The structures are absolutely fantastic and deserving of utmost praise from all listeners. Each track represents something deeper and passionate than the first five seconds suggest. Take "Weight", the album opener. Starting with Cronin's piano, it easily turns in to a summer hit, something Juno would be proud to play on her Sony Walkman. The electric takes a heavy garage rock vibe, whereas Cronin's acoustic riff keeps the track grounded to its piano roots. He sings: "I've been starting over for a long time, I’m not ready for another day I fail at feeling new," / "The time is right, I’m only getting older, I’m not ready for the second wave, the weight of seeing through." Cronin is hesitant to take the next step, and "Weight" is all about his anxiety of moving on. His use of words during the songs bridge shows the listener his quarrels: "I'm not ready..."
Cronin's layered back nature to life an on-going theme on MCII. He uses his self, but not self-pity, to wonder what things can be what's expected of him and pressures they bring. "Shout It Out" is the perfect example of Cronin's wandering mind. With its Beach Boys-esque standard structure, Cronin sings: "I learned a little bit a long, long time ago, just from a friend I used to know, about how love can end so slow." Cronin asks himself what to do, does he: "Shout it out," does he: "Let it go," or does he: "Need to know what I'm (he's) waiting for?" Text or tweet your answer (terms and conditions apply etc..) Cronin's so caught up in decision making that he's even questioning the time and worth in making said decision.
It's interesting to note Cronin's advanced skills from his self-titled debut album from 2011. He has adopted a stricter tone to his music, with structure and sound. MCII is the 2013 equivalent to Frankie Rose's 2012 debut album Interstellar. Cronin has the Brooklyn garage rock features of Rose, with her past being Cronin's present in Brooklyn bands like Beach Fossils and Crystal Stilts - the latter being affiliated with Rose. There's something about this genre, this grouping of artists that strike a chord with listeners, coast to coast, country to country. Cronin strikes his chords gently and eagerly throughout MCII creating not only the distortion killing solos, but the funky rhythms like on "See It My Way", and the offbeat piano to primetime single material on "Am I Wrong"
MCII isn't just a three-track-thunderstorm; it's a whole hurricane of distortion blowing wind and chaotic bleak atmosphere. Cronin's sophomore album meets a remorseful ballad at half-way with "Peace Of Mind". The West Coaster nails a near-perfect vocal over a sweet acoustic guitar melody that at first sounds shady, like a Pete Doherty D-side, but becomes a blessing of joy. That was also my initial feeling with Cronin as a recording artist. At first there's a thump of sounds that can be shrugged off like Deerhunter, like The Flaming Lips. Go beyond the basics and a whole new world appears in Cronin's soundscapes. "Change" is the MCII's focus, right at the heart. It's also tight at Cronin's heart, being one of his love-infused tracks of power and heart-wrenching instrumentation. Initially a three-chord punk-esque single, "Change" steadily develops into an epilogue. Heavily effected acoustic guitars draw the song to a close with enduring strings that you would be lucky to find on a Massive Attack album.
MCII isn’t over before the sweet four tracks of back-album rejuvenation. "I'm Done Running From You" sounds like a garage rock version of the Friends opening music, whereas "Don't Let Me Go" swoops down on the audience with a front of stage intimate performance, the kind of show with one light at the centre. Cronin sings well and shows a tender side on the chorus as he reaches the high notes, just. "Turn Away" takes the listener away from the ballad and back to the standard structure garage rock fans of Cronin and MCII want to hear. Time passes by uncontrollably and it's not long before MCII's closer "Piano Mantra" becomes the present. Not many listeners of MCII were expecting that cool finish from the hit machine. His multi-instrumentalist skills shine through on this track, with the full blown band coming into play to match his piano riff. "Piano Mantra" still has the gritty distorted electric guitar and follow-up acoustic guitar, but the piano, strings and Cronin's vocal are eagerly at the heart of this recording, and with a few seconds of garage rock power comes a piano fade out, leaving the listeners with one option - repeat.
The repeat is met with "Weight", which has to be one of the best tracks of 2013 so far. Cronin has crafted a stunning album this time round, with aspects many of you would pin on a Beck, Sufjan Stevens, or Ty Segall. MCII is not just different from his work with Segall, it's simply better. Long live the garage rock revival artists who have a deeper skill in performing in the studio than just making a racket outside the studio. Cronin has ensured a prosperous future with MCII, but it needs the recognition it deserves come December. I'm thoroughly impressed by his sophomore effort and I'm sure Cronin has led many listeners astray from their doings to focus entirely on the music at hand. This is one for the car, the shelf, and the records.