Of all the songwriters to come out of the Segall orbit, Mikal Cronin’s always been the most prone to pop. Where others found solace in the crushing fuzz and rancor of rock, Cronin has been the voice of melody, and the guiding light of embellishment. Fittingly Cronin’s also been one of the most masterful producers in this orbit, fitting Ty’s psych-flecked garage with buzzing sax, mellowed keys and all manner of interesting ephemera. He’s followed the flow of this sentiment with his own songwriting career as well and the traits that prevailed over the years are the urges to explode rock in all directions, awash in pop’s arms and swirling through a sound that’s not lean, but never unbalanced. Cronin’s songs are packed with hooks and snagged on melancholy. It seems fitting that he’s the one from this enclave that’s found his way to Merge, ever a home to the bittersweet pop loner.
This album jus that, a lonely album. There are surely others in the room, but Mikal gives it the feel of a solo project built on his own pain and pulse. Seeker is probably one of Cronin’s most meticulous releases, and this serves as both a benefit and poison to its direction. While the songs swoon, awash in strings, velvet harmonies, and piano key tears, it’s missing a bit of the rawness and whimsy of his earlier catalog. In the past his songs felt ready to explode at any moment from emotions pent up and propelled by a power pop catapult that splashed them across the soundfield in ecstatic colors. Those colors seem muted on Seeker, perhaps dampened by time among the studio’s walls. The songs seem like they might find that spark more in the live setting. The core kernels of pop are there, but they’re sealed in packaging and ready for Cronin to get them out to play.
That feeling does return as the album wears on, “Lost A Year’s” second half goes for the win, but even there it could feel looser. “Caravan” lets that sax creep in but why not let it crack at the corners, get wile and free? That’s not to knock the songs themselves, there are some hooks in the bucket, but I just keep wanting Cronin to spill them all over the place and have fun. He’s never seemed worried about mussing his hair before, so maybe that’s why the quick-comb feels like a pretense for school pictures, a buttoned-up version of what could be. I’ve confidence that the stage will sort it out. This is a solid shot from Cronin, but it could have been a shout.
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