Mikal Cronin - MCII

Here’s a guy who’s finally stepping into the limelight, whether he’s sure he’s ready to or not.

Label: Merge

Rating: 7

“I’ve been startin’ over for a long time,” confesses Mikal Cronin at the very beginning of ‘MCII’. If the title didn’t give it away, this is his second solo album, and with it comes a new kind of a maturity. Alongside fuzzy guitars are doses of sunny pop, with Cronin having clearly mastered the art of loud-quiet songs – just listen to ‘Shout It Out’.

And lyrically, here’s a guy who’s finally stepping into the limelight, whether he’s sure he’s ready to or not. Cronin might have been previously better known as Ty Segall’s collaborator and live band member, but ‘MCII’ will certainly cement him as an excellent singer-songwriter in his own right.

‘Am I Wrong’ brings about more than self-doubt and questioning; piano notes intersperse a stomping beat, and it’s catchy as hell. Equally infectious, but far more laid back is ‘See It My Way’, at least until it gets noisy with its guitar riffs in the last minute and a half. This is us, as Cronin tells us he wants, seeing things his way.

The reflective, introspective ‘Peace Of Mind’ benefits from strings giving it an almost sad, country vibe. But it’s the heavy – possibly the heaviest moment on the album – ‘Change’ that’s more interesting. That ‘MCII’ can jump from sound to sound isn’t a surprise; but at times it does make for a slightly schizophrenic listen. Cronin’s clearly experimented with his sound, but at times it feels like it’s restrained – not quite weird or different enough, but only his vocals really keep the songs sounding alike.

‘I’m Done Running From You’, despite its slightly concerning title, is all singalong choruses. But Cronin doesn’t always need effects or specific styles to sound good; ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ is just his sweet vocals backed by an acoustic guitar. Of course, that’s a specific style as well.

It closes on the helpfully-titled ‘Piano Mantra’. It starts with maudlin keys, slow and heavy. The strings make a return, and it’s not entirely clear why Cronin chose to end such a good album on such a sad note. But then the drums kick in, the fuzzy guitars make a comeback, and it all builds into one beautifully layered swelling of feelings.