Review Summary: An old fashioned, free-ranging rock album with enough charm, melody, and emotion to become Cronin’s greatest offering.
Mikal Cronin’s fourth full-length, Seeker
, is the first to depart from his rigid naming convention (Mikal Cronin
), and it seems appropriate given the circumstances. The California indie-rocker, who has witnessed mass destruction caused by historic wildfires, stated in advance of Seeker
’s release that, “Fire—specifically its cycle of purging and reseeding the landscape—is a central theme to the record. Death and rebirth.” In an interview with Paste Magazine
, he continued along a similar thought: “It seemed like a pretty apt metaphor for life and starting over, regenerating energy…I was relating to that process a lot.” While Cronin’s sound hasn’t been completely altered on Seeker
– it still treads somewhere in between garage punk, Tom Petty Americana, and Oasis/Beatles-inspired rock – there are appreciable differences. The concepts are noticeably darker, as Cronin sings about feeling like he’s “better off dead” on ‘Feel It All’, appears shattered and exposed on ‘Sold’, and sounds more rough-and-weathered than ever on ‘I’ve Got Reason.’ He also welcomes others into the studio – including Ty Segall, Shannon Lay, and William Tyler – which boosts the energy and creativity of the record to new heights, while Cronin allegedly gave several of his guests creative freedom to ad-lib and let their instincts drive the songs. All of this pays dividends in Seeker
’s final product, which is an old fashioned, free-ranging rock album with enough charm, melody, and emotion to become Cronin’s greatest offering.
is, among many things, remarkably consistent. Every song has unique identifiers, but the album still feels totally unified sonically and lyrically. ‘Shelter’ kicks things off with an experimental drum/string sequence that intensifies by the song’s conclusion, while setting the framework for the record’s theme of rebirth: “got the hell out of that town.” ‘Show Me’ sees Cronin at his most Petty-esque, with a shimmering, acoustically-underscored chorus featuring moments of lively, jaunty piano interrupts. On ‘Feel It All’ and ‘Fire’, it’s Cronin’s vocal melodies that steal the show – sounding equal parts Oberst/Petty – en route to establishing two of the album’s most memorable tunes. ‘Sold’ is a heartbroken moment of near despair (“tell me you love me and leave me alone”) that stops short of ballad territory when the drums and guitars ramp up in intensity during the final refrain. Seeker
’s second half is arguably where the bulk of Mikal’s best songwriting exists, beginning with ‘I’ve Got Reason’, which is far and away the most rock-oriented of the bunch. The song weaves between picked and strummed electric guitar chords, winding synths, and Cronin’s shouted chorus. As a single it’s a tad misleading, but in the context of the album it’s the clear epicenter. ‘Caravan’ carries over the energy from that song but transforms it into an infectious, saxophone-charged stomper, a simple enough tune that provides some melodic backbone to Seeker
’s back end. ‘Guardian’ comes swelling into focus with an opening harmonica solo, while ‘Lost a Year’ culminates in the wildest and most eclectic guitar solo/subsequent breakdown of Cronin’s entire career. ‘On a Shelf’ closes things out on a meek, touchingly personal acoustic note, “We’ll fall in love and fuck the nonsense; it’s not for us”, but the latter portion of Seeker
is undoubtedly Cronin’s most energetic and it lends the most credence to the notion that the record is indeed a reinvention of his sound.
This is the kind of album that sounds like it could have been released in the late 1970s to critical and commercial acclaim, but instead dropped in 2019 to little fanfare. It makes sense in some ways as this is hardly breaking ground on any new genres, but with respect to the indie-rock/Americana sound that it espouses, it is absolutely masterful. It’s a brilliant leap forward from Cronin’s MC
series, adding more elaborate and varied song structures/progressions while sharpening his rock undertones with darker, and at times heavier, aesthetics. Seeker
may not be the embodiment of Mikal Cronin rising from the charred ashes of a California forest fire – totally transformed and overhauled into a new entity – but it is absolutely an evolution from his opening trio of releases, and a strong step towards becoming an integral voice in the indie rock scene.