Mikal Cronin’s second album filters the lyrical melancholy of confessional pop through a joyfully dissonant, dirt-crusted lens, winding fuzz-frayed guitar lines through sunny miasmas of overtone, threading triumphant melodies through hedge-rows of strident strumming. Sounding at times like his garage pop collaborator Ty Segall, but more often like power pop icons Brendan Benson, Jason Faulkner and the Flamin’ Groovies, Cronin has recorded the beach-and-pool-and-driving-with-the-windows-down album of the summer. MCII is an immediate rush and a lasting pleasure.
“I’ve been starting over for a long time,” sings Cronin in the opening lines of “The Weight”, clueing us all in that this is an album about changing, growing, throwing off the chrysalis and trying out a new pair of wings. The song – and the album that it initiates – is in every way superior to Cronin’s past work (which was pretty good, too). Cronin made it by himself, for the most part, playing guitar, bass and a fair amount of piano and arranging the strings on Cali-country-psych-ish “Peace of Mind.”
Cronin is, however, not entirely alone. Ty Segall guests on the fuzz anthems “Am I Wrong” and “I’m Done Running from You,” while his drummer Charlie Moothart kicks up a ruckus in “Change” and “Turn Away.” Sometime Oh Sees violinist/violist K. Dylan Edrich assists in roughly half the tracks, and Petey Dammit, also on loan from the Oh Sees, plays slide on “Peace of Mind.”
Yet this is mostly Cronin himself, turning scrappy guitar strumming mayhems into buoyant pop, cutting Nuggets-y adrenaline with an aching melancholy. These songs shift depending on how the light hits them, turning from soaring triumph to wistfulness in an iridescent shimmer. Even “Piano Mantra,” the album’s final and most subdued track erupts into feedback braying euphoria by its close. Cronin sounds like Eric Carmen in this one, hitting both his giddy “Go All the Way” exuberance and his plaintive “All By Myself” vulnerability. Power pop may not be as ubiquitous or even as relevant as it was in the Raspberries’ prime, but it still can be done well…just ask Mikal Cronin.
DOWNLOAD: “Am I Wrong” “Peace of Mind”