mikal cronin’s bay area brand of diy ethos has yielded two appropriately sunny and surprisingly complex solo albums thus far: a self-titled in 2011 and 2013’s mcii. he’ll follow up with mciii on may 5th with the help of merge records, an album that’s slated to be particularly ambitious if its second single is any indication. “ii) gold” is reportedly the second part of a six-song cycle found in the back half of mciii, a bruising piece of power-pop that pounds away incessantly before shifting gears towards an unexpected acoustic breakdown. it’s the kind of nuanced songwriting that’s come to be expected of cronin, but it’s still a treat to witness it happen. spin “ii) gold” below.
as i start to branch out into more and more different subgenres of the indie rock spectrum, i inadvertently find myself attaching certain music to certain moods, as well as to certain seasons. surprisingly, summer is the hardest three-month slot to fill. for music to qualify for this illustrious position, it must reach one or both of the following criteria to the utmost degree: 1. the music must be equal parts pop and beach-ready, with superb arranging and exquisite lyrics. 2. the music must be perfect for driving late at night through the back roads of wisconsin with the windows down. the first category is home to your vampire weekends; bands i wouldn’t hesitate to listen to while drinking a pale ale on my porch or reading steinbeck on the beach. the latter group is for your japandroids of the world, with brash, guitar driven songs and sing-along choruses about youth and girls and driving and cars (see also: the gaslight anthem, early kings of leon).
on his second solo album, part-time ty segall band bassist mikal cronin manages to find some sort of curious common ground between these two categories. across the ten tracks on mcii, cronin creates bursts of fuzzed-out guitar rock infused with astute pop sensibilities, yielding anthemic results with the support of backing vocals already built in.
the extra touches cronin adds, like the 12-string guitar on “weight” and the consistently harmonized lead vocals on “am i wrong,” provide counteractions to any overbearing tendencies the aggressive distorted undertones of the album may have. the result is a record that is equal parts porch-appropriate and midnight drive-ready. vocal hooks are abound; i’ve already had the chorus of “see it my way” stuck in my head ever since mcii started streaming on npr, and cronin continues this impressive streak across the album’s entirety.
cronin the instrumentalist and arranger also deserves a nod for his superb musicianship on this album. his marriage of clean lead guitar lines over muddy, distorted rhythm tracks is surprisingly aesthetically pleasing, and his work with string arrangements on “peace of mind” and his intermittent dabbling into piano is also admirable. from the simplistic galloping tendencies of “change” to the more cohesive offerings from “peace of mind” and “shout it out” all the way down to the stripped-away brilliance of “don’t let me go,” mikal cronin has given me the record that i will be spinning in all possible scenarios this summer.