Posts Tagged ‘Merge’

Mikal Cronin

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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Mikal Cronin – “Show Me”

This fall just keeps looking up and the announcement of a new Mikal Cronin album only solidifies the point. Employing members of The Freedom Band, Cronin’s got a new full length for Merge that thickens his bittersweet pop credentials even further. There’s a Tom Petty hangover in the pit of the stomach on “Show Me” turning those walking jangles into hooks that haunt. As has become his forte, Cronin’s all about the details, fleshing the track out with strings, keys, and layers of vocals. It’s a beautiful bit of melancholy baked in the California sun. Check the video and put that new record on your ‘need’ pile.

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The Essex Green – “Sloane Ranger”

Love it when a band resurfaces that I didn’t even realize how badly I’d missed. I’ve never shied away from my overt love of The Elephant 6 around here, but it always cracks a smile when one of the alums keeps the train rolling. In the same respect that it was great to have Dressy Bessy back on the scene a few years back, its wonderful to see news that The Essex Green is back and still pumping out high quality sunset-hued psych pop that’s warmed by the sounds of the ‘60s and funneling the paisley pop revival right on into a new age.

The band shows no sign of dents or dings, picking up “Sloane Ranger” right where 2006’s The Cannibal Sea left off. Good to see them back on Merge and digging into their prime hooks. Gonna remain excited for the rest of this, but for now, I’ve got to keep this on repeat a few more spins.


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