Review Summary: Until next time, Winter.
Living in NW Ohio, winters used to get really rough growing up. Especially when you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Over the last ten years or so, they've become way more mild and easier to cope with. This year was one of the first winters in a long time that felt like a winter from my childhood. It was gloomy, snowy, and bitterly cold. Most of all, it was a long one. September and October were unseasonably cold, and until just a few days ago it seemed to be refusing to let go. In fact, I've found myself casting an untrusting eye at the outdoors because I had refused to accept that it was over. It's always great to have a perfectly-timed release for an album to be the soundtrack of summer. And as much as I love the new Phoenix, it's missing the unbridled joy of Wolfgang
, so I had yet to find that album. Of all of the things to finally shake my feeling that I was going to wake up to find snow on the ground, it was the release of Mikal Cronin's MCII
. It finally happened. Warm weather is here.
is deceptive on first listen. While it's an instantly noticeable that it's an absolutely fun album, nothing it's doing is reinventing the wheel. It's a power-pop album through and through. And while it's easy to pick up on the fact that--despite the fact it isn't doing anything new--it's doing it extremely well, it isn't until further listens that it becomes apparent that it's an intricately-crafted album filled with unique arrangements and well-done instrumentation. Anyone who knows anything about Cronin won't be surprised by this. He's a member of the Ty Segall band, and he's already released on incredibly underrated self-titled album. However, this album leapfrogs his previous material and proves him as a master-craftsmen when it comes to heartfelt, fuzzy power-pop.
The album comes out swinging with the incredible "Weight" and "Shout It Out". Under normal circumstances, leading an album with two tracks that strong would run the risk of making an album--even more so one with ten tracks--seem front-loaded. Especially since I easily consider "Weight" the best indie-rock song of 2013 thus far. Starting with a jangly guitar and piano melody, it wastes no time erupting into a huge sing-along chorus, undercut by distortion that brings the whole thing together. "Shout It Out" follows the same template, with results that are almost as strong. Following that is "Am I Wrong", which blends the sound of the previous two with a bit of surf-rock, even throwing some cabaret-style piano in the mix. And like any power-pop album worth its mettle, it cuts the bitter with the sweet. Under the sunny arrangements are lyrics of self-doubt. The entire album opens with the line "I’ve been starting over for a long time. I’m not ready for another day". However, if you weren't paying attention it would sound like the most life-affirming, joyous track you'd ever listened to.
The album continues this strong pace, never running the usual problem with an album like this where all of the songs blend together. Part of what helps this are the occasional detours some of the songs take. There are ballads scattered throughout, which break up the pace, but in the best way. "Peace of Mind" is a power-pop/alt-country hybrid. Songs like "Turn Away" and "Piano Mantra" start as ballads and eventually unleash a blast of fuzzy-distortion that doesn't ever feel tacked on for the sake of having it in the song. They slowly build to the point where that release feels earned
. With MCII
Mikal Cronin has crafted one of the best albums of the year, and one that firmly moves him out of the area of "guy who works with Ty Segall" into "exciting artist to pay attention to". If he can follow up this album with another one as strong, he may even make Ty Segall the "guy who works with Mikal Cronin".