Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Album Review: Mikal Cronin - MCII

Mikal Cronin’s Merge Records debut, MCII, is a near-perfect summer record coming along just in time to dominate speakers and headphones all season.

From the opening piano line of “Weight” to the final fuzzy fade out on “Piano Mantra,” MCII is a resplendent balance of infectious melody, energy and Cronin’s shrugging vocals. There’s enough power behind the guitar lines to keep fans of Cronin’s early work satisfied while the unstoppable choruses draw in legions of new listeners.

Buoyed by bright chords, Cronin’s lyrics about indecision, uncertainty, and the desire for companionship make an instant connection. Cronin is constantly questioning himself and his actions throughout MCII, but he asks loudly and openly. For those feeling trapped by the fear of the not having an answer, these songs can prove freeing.

Cronin’s musicality shines within each track. Even on the louder tracks, he’s expressive with dynamics. Something as simple as the short crescendo from 1:47 to 1:53 of “Weight” adds so much texture to each track. It allows MCII to sound raw and organic while keeping the melodies polished.

The pacing is spot on. “Peace of Mind” and “Don’t Let Me Go” show the softer side of Cronin’s guitar without losing the urgency. The surprising closing track “Piano Mantra” builds gorgeous, thick chords on its way to a triumphant climax. It’s a “Wow!” moment that leaves no doubt about Cronin’s talents.

This one deserves to be played over and over and over. MCII is easily a candidate for the best record of 2013.

MCII is out now on Merge Records.

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