Posts Tagged ‘Mikal Cronin’

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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Ty Segall – “Radio”

So, while I was away last week the music world didn’t stop turning, which leaves a few good bits by the wayside. I’m going to use today to catch up on the best of the bunch. Wouldn’t be a year on the books if Ty didn’t have at least one or two irons in the fire. He’s back with a new solo LP with the usual cast of garage gremlins behind him — “Radio” features Mikal Cronin weirding a bout of buzzing sax, Emmet Kelley and Charles Mootheart holding down the rhythm, and relative newcomer to the Segall Circus, Shannon Lay, chipping in some backup vox. This time around Ty’s cutting down the grandeur of last year’s Freedom’s Goblin, but that by no means equals austerity. The track’s got a bit of an Eastern buzz to it, hammering the guitars like sitars in the sun. Cronin’s sax lights a fire from the outset and the whole thing’s dipped in a layer of reflective paint that shines like some extra-dimensional sun. Sounding like another good one on our hands when First Taste lands August 2nd.



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Ty Segall & Freedom Band

As January rolls around each year, it seems that it’s becoming an expected event for Ty Segall to roll out a full length that’s wrapped in his latest personal stamp. The rest of the year is packed with personal projects, side endeavors, producing, and guest spots, but January is where the big statements get laid down. Last year he teamed up with Steve Albini for a record that tempered the fire for some true pop moments. The year prior he’d burnt down all pop notions for a record that embraced the squirm under the skin. This year he unfolds his double-size gonzo gatefold vision of rock history and it’s supremely satisfying.

Freedom’s Goblin not only culls from Segall’s own personal rock alters, with Bolan boogie butting heads with ten tons of pelvis shakin’ riffs, it acts as a bit of a celebration of rock’s excess and endurance in general. The album does its best to let glam stomp rest easy alongside the AOR country of The Band. It repurposes the disco-funk of Hot Chocolate as a companion piece to Contortions-style skronk. It swaths punk’s pummel in the chirping headspins of psychedelia, breaking down the nugget of rock ‘n roll into heavy-panting visions of fret board mayhem doused the hot house sweat of soul-worn horns.

The core of Freedoms Goblin is that it embraces the notion of making a big record. Not that Ty hasn’t made a proper, heavy studio affair in the past, there’s no denying that fact – but what defines this record is its vastness, its heaviness, its excess, and its embrace of those qualities. That’s not to call this a bloated record, on the contrary, it’s stuffed but not waddling from its own indulgences. Instead FG is a house party with a curatorial ear on the DJ, building out a record that unfolds like someone relishing their ability to collect the skattered pieces of recorded history and reinvest those sounds in new songs.

There’s a cracked glee to the record that feels like Segall may never have had this much fun cobbling together an album. In a year that also boasts a record from rock’s own anointed king, Jack White, I think that Ty might have just gone and stole fire for Olympus with this one. He’s proved he’s not only worth mentioning in the same breath as the established court of “rock’s saviors” he’s worthy of topping the list.




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Ty Segall – “The Main Pretender”

Gettin’ hard to resist these Segall gems, dropping almost bi-weekly now like a necessary dosage. The latest pushes aside the laconic cool of “My Baby’s On Fire” for a fever-sweat vision of glam that’s panting with weird lust and shaking with crossfired nerves. It’s an infected descendant of Roxy-era sleaze-rock taken to the logical extreme. Mikal Cronin returns to blow sax on this one, but this time he isn’t providing mere sunset accompaniment to Segall’s house-light comedown, not in the slightest. This time he’s out for blood and bile, cutting through the riffs with a serrated groove that’s sharpened its spines on the back of James Chance’s singular vision from years before. There have been some choice cuts in this multi-hued basket of treats, but none have lacerated like this.




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OCS

As Castle Face rightly points out in any mention of this album, it seems that in all the amplifier fallout that John Dwyer has amassed in the past decade, people forget that the seed of Thee Oh Sees was a much more acoustic vision. I remember seeing “the guy from Coachwhips” at a show many years back in NY club Rothko (RIP) and trying to get people to hush the constant whinging about when Ted Leo was coming on. Dwyer was still banging the project into shape, but his presence was as indelible then as it is now. Revisiting the hushed ambiance, but with a hefty bit of vision and refinement under his belt, this version of OCS is again acting as a respite from John’s more flammable works.

This time the ramshackle folk is replaced by a loving ode to ’60s chamber folk records. Strings yawn underneath the hushed bedtime pop of Dwyer and longtime Oh Sees companion Brigid Dawson and the compositions skew heavily to the lush, yet mournful. The love of this era of psych has peeked into the band’s catalog but never taken center square until now. There are shades of Subway, Nick Garrie, The End, Susan Christie, and Sunforest flickering into view as we ease into this new incarnation of the band. As the record progresses impressions of The Free Design and The United States of America surface as well, but it’s clear that the synthesis of influence on this can’t be pointed at any one band. It’s a true divination of the murkier side of the ’60s. This is the sound of someone getting frustrated with searching out a certain sound from the crates and just doing it better themselves.

Dawson acts as the perfect melancholy specter on the album, with her veiled delivery sitting Shiva for the hearts of a hundred crackled ’45s. The bench on this record gets even deeper though, with Mikal Cronin chipping in a full horn workup on some tracks and those note-perfect strings, courtesy of Heather Lockie’ (Spiritualized, Sparkelhorse, Cory Hanson) making all the difference here – pushing the listener into a deep, lush vista of sound. There’s even a few breakdowns from original member Patrick Mullins, driving this into Soft Machine territory. The record’s probably not a pickup for the casual Oh Sees fan, maybe not even the devout, if JD’s scuzz is what you crave. But for those of us who are always looking for more candlelit visions of bittersweet warble, this is a nice gift. If you were charmed by Cory Hanson’s excursion into similar territory then you’ll feel right at home here. Honestly, even if you do usually come for the fuzz, maybe just sink back into this one and cool off.



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Ty Segall

Just like last year started with a blast from Ty, so starts 2017 with a new album from the hardest working man in garage-psych. For his second eponymous venture, he’s departed from The Muggers, shaken the deliciously diseased vibes that flooded Emotional Mugger and returned to finding peace somewhere between the Bolan bound twinges of psych-folk come down with a beautiful case of the shakes and proto-metal’s thick, earthen hammer of fuzz. Segall’s made no over arching claims on this one, just that its the best batch of songs he’s had in him and that’s what he’s putting forward. No small proposal in a catalog that stretches longer than most artists could ever hope to muster, but the man makes good on his promises to lay down some true new gems, glittering among a career full of amp-toasted earworm nuggets.

He’s both at his heaviest, besting even the electrified armor heft of Slaughterhouse, and his most pastoral, taking Sleeper‘s mellow mind to task. The heavy standout here is the 10+ minute opus, “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” which goes ques up the guitar god clip for our judges in the audience. If you came for the heavy psych vibes and wallpaper peel, please proceed directly to track three and let your brain melt like butter in the sun. For me though, as much as I appreciate a good, hard mind flay, its the softer side that finds me coming back again and again. Pristine plums like “Take Care (To Comb Your Hair),” “Talkin'” and “Orange Color Queen” beg for quietude, calm air and an appreciation of the artist’s presumably ample collection of ’70s country, folk and psych slabs for their inspiration.

The album employs a new (and yet not so new – welcome back Emmet Kelly, Mikal Cronin and Charles Moothart) backing band that calls up old friends, cuts the crew down to a core that can’t miss and records one of the first true big studio albums in the artist’s career. Cut with minimal overdubs, just a band in a room working as a unit to bring an album beating to life, its an record that won’t let itself slip from view in a year that threatens to be choked with big banner releases. I think, for me at least, that’s why I’ll always be waiting to hear what Segall does next. Every new album will make good on promises to, if not outdo the last one, always be an essential and vital voice kicking holes in rock’s altar.



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Ty Segall – New Album / Single

I’d be remiss not to mention that the ever prolific Segall is embarking on yet another album, this one slated for early 2017. The album brings along many, though not all of the players who acted as The Muggers. Sadly missed are King Tuff and Cory Hanson, but he keeps the core of Emmett Kelley, Mikal Cronin and Charles Moothart in tact. There’s mention of some riffs that rival Slaughterhouse, but none are on display in the album’s first taste, “Orange Color Queen.” The track pulls its inspiration from a more languid side of pop folk that swims in plenty of sunset hues, driving to a stately close that’s pushing the sound much closer to Manipulator’s composed and collected odes than Emotional Mugger’s jittery fray. I’d expect any year to have no less than three albums related to Segall, John Dwyer and King Gizzard. Already got two of those boxes ticked and counting so 2017 is off running right (at least musically).


Elsewhere, Segall also slipped out a sly split single with Loch Lomond on the Dutch label Wet Bridge. The two artists each tackle a Harry Nilsson cover and Segall adds some itching weirdness to Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up.” The man’s always had a knack for finding himself in covers and this is no different. Its a very fizzy take on the classic Schmilsson opener and works nicely as a pairing with the new track. The split single was available as a tour item but there’s still some left for lucky discoger’s out there.


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Ty Segall

So Segall ropes in a huge crew of ringers on his latest collection, Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), Mikal Cronin, Emmett Kelley (The Cairo Gang), Charles Moothart (Meatbodies), Cory Hanson & Evan Burrows of Wand and Melvins Drummer Dale Crover, each one a holding a record nerd’s pedigree in their own right; and together they make exactly the kind of case study in explosive, yet powerful rock that you might think that they’d unearth. What’s maybe missing, is perhaps any of that polish that found its way to the forefront of Ty’s last record. Here he’s going for a barbed wire aura that puts listeners on their haunches from the get go, grinding through the dirt rather than working to nod heads and let the teens bop. The cast of characters on display are torn from some similar territory from past releases, all matter of loners and speckled creepers, but now it seems that the disconnection they inspire is intentional and perhaps crucial, as the core of his “emotional mugging” stems from the electronic barriers of social feeds and the constant filter of glowing screens.

The first half of the record cuts the flesh and licks a few wounds, barreling through Television, Beefheart and Voidoids machinations if they were blown through the filter of Chrome and throttled a few turns in the vice of MX-80. The second half opens up its scope, though its still got an evil hangover of guitar gnash that keeps it at arm’s length from the glittered pop of Manipulator. This is one for the true grit, those who’ve come as much for the hooks as for the blown cone ethos. In a way, this whole album reminds me of one of Segall’s greatest tracks, “My Sunshine,” a shot over two minutes of melted wire fury with a caramel center of melody that makes it uncomfortable in its own skin while still making you smile every time. Who knows if this mask will stay on long, but for now this is an enjoyable bit of squirm from one of the modern masters of string wrangled fury.

Listen:
Watch ’em play it HERE

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Best of 2015


Its been a long year at RSTB and though the pace may have been slower on the face, there has been lots going on to be sure. Next year marks our 10 year anniversary and we’ll have a new look shortly, so stay tuned. There will also some other fun things to mark the anniversary as 2016 wears on. But enough of the future, let’s look to the past. Here are my favorites of 2015, as usual in no particular order, along with a mix of tracks.

Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven (BUY)
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (BUY)
Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up (BUY)
Young Guv – Ripe For Love (BUY)
Sir Richard Bishop – Tangier Sessions (BUY)
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (BUY)
Wand – Golem (BUY) // 1000 Days (BUY)
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (BUY)
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes (BUY)
Mikal Cronin – MCIII (BUY)
Twerps – Range Anxiety (BUY)
Future Punx – This Is Post-Wave (BUY)
Sean McCann – Ten Impressions for Piano and Strings (BUY)
The Mantles – All Odds End (BUY)
Barreracudas – Can Do Easy (BUY)
Peacers – Peacers (BUY)
Love Axe – South Dakota (BUY)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (BUY)
Fuzz – II (BUY)
Sauna Youth – Distractions (BUY)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (BUY)
Swiftumz – Everybody Loves Chris (BUY)
Rabit – Communion (BUY)
Holly Herndon – Platform (BUY)
Herbcraft – Wot Oz (BUY)


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