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In Mikal Cronin’s latest album, MCII, we get a juicy assembly of ten tracks clenching reverb that swings in and out of Cronin’s quintessential nineties, garage-rock guitar. String arrangements trickle in on a couple of tracks and above all, each song is wound together with polished, catchy pop vocals that have you singing along before you know it. There is, though, a sense of hesitation that Cronin is trying to shake—a struggle to face commitments that can no longer be put off. But as a southern California native currently stationed in San Francisco, the west coast sunbeams are felt throughout the album. Portions of it shimmer, levitating its darker sentiments into an honest, upbeat collection of tunes looking for solutions.
The album opens with a powerful introduction, “Weight,” where a four-note piano progression leads us onto a road of devotion Cronin is hoping won’t crumble. He sings, “I’ve been starting over for a long time/I’m not waiting for another day I fail at being new.” In the pre-chorus it is clear this inner dialogue helps him take a positive turn as he continues, “No, be bolder, golden light for miles.” This luminescence continues albeit to break the skepticism and self-doubt life often throws our way.
Cronin’s nineties rock influence is most definitely the crux of the album. The layering of rhythm guitar riffs appear to be his strong suit. He’s been sited expressing his admiration for Nirvana’s In Utero, and hints of Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains can be heard. But for those whose memory doesn’t quite stretch into that particular arena, certain songs such as “Shout it Out” are reminiscent of Ben Kweller’s On My Way or Bright Eye’s Cassadega through the acoustics and string arrangement in “Peace of Mind.” Overall, the influence seems eclectic but the cocktail of sounds within the album succeed with a smooth consistency.
When Cronin does take a break from the percussion and powered pop distorted guitar, there are a few songs seamlessly worked in which link noise into sweet, distressed lull. The track “Don’t Let Me Go” reminds us of the quiet struggle still tossing in his conscious. Cronin laments a change, or what might have been a missed opportunity as he sings, “I don’t want to know/ is it my fault we could not grow?” followed by a polite request to “Shine on bright above me/ Be the light that guides me up and through the fog.” And as it was with his strong opener, Cronin leaves us off on a just an equally powerful note with “Piano Mantra.”As the title implies, the song is built on the progression of chords from a heavy grand piano which are then lightly nudged along by strings as Cronin sings, “Can you hear me or is in my mind?” The second guessing continues, and it’s likely Cronin doesn’t see himself getting through, but he’s patient. Despite it’s more troubled subjects, MCII is imbued with positivity.
Cronin’s interaction with new beginnings is humble, and he appears to know the advantage of being kind to oneself as he closes by saying, “Sink my roots and I’ll be gold/ The open arms are giving me hope.” What might feel like real problems turn into slight complications dissolved into a nice, steady snare. The potential to change will catch on. The road looks straight and the light seems to be leading the way.