by: Mikal Cronin

If you only know Mikal Cronin as a member of Ty Segall's band, you might be in for a shock on his debut album for Merge, 2013's MC II. If you picked up Cronin's self-titled 2011 album on Trouble in Mind, you might also be in for a bit of a surprise. See, Cronin doesn't go in for noise freakouts or skuzzy garage rock -- he's more of a power popper with an ear for a pretty melody. He's also cleaned up his sound quite a bit on this record with far less reverb and surface noise scuffing up his songs. Cronin and producer Eric Bauer go for a very layered approach that mixes acoustic and electric guitars and features Cronin's nice falsetto harmonies over the top. It makes for a very adaptable sound, perfect for uptempo rockers (like "Shout It Out" or "Turn Away"), midtempo janglers ("Weight," "Am I Wrong"), or introspective ballads ("Peace of Mind.") And despite Cronin playing all the instruments (save the occasional guitar solo by Segall, some drums, and occasional violin), it's a very live and direct feeling record with none of the sterility you often find with one-man band projects. The only track that lets down the side a little is the overly '90s-inspired "See My Way." Much of the rest of the album looks to that decade for inspiration, touching on Matthew Sweet's punchy power pop or gently biting Sloan's rambunctious, but keenly melodic, sound. Check "Am I Wrong" for something that a track that could have been on One Chord to Another, "Peace of Mind, too, has very Sloan-sounding vocal harmonies. The problem with "See My Way" is that it's generically '90s and tips too far in the grunge-lite direction. It's a minor stumble on an album made up of super hooky, really fun tracks and it's not enough to wreck the good-time vibe. Indeed, Cronin's second album is a step forward from his debut and shows off a guy with enough talent to step out from behind Segall's shadow and make it on his own. ~ Tim Sendra

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