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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Albums of the Year - #14: Mikal Cronin - "MCII"

Rating: 7.5/10

Multi-instrumentalist Mikal Cronin has collaborated with several other musicians throughout his young career, including rising garage rock star Ty Segall. But his most impressive work to date may be his second solo record, MCII. Employing a stellar combination of guitar noise and shimmering melodies, MCII is jam-packed with powerful singles with commercial appeal. Three tracks ("Weight," "Change," and "Shout It Out") made it onto my top 75 singles of the year list, and dutifully so. The record is simple and succinct, lasting just thirty-seven minutes, and that's all it needs to be. Cronin doesn't mess around on MCII, getting right down to business. In order for that to work, usually you need impeccably songwriting ability, which Cronin eagerly displays here.

Instrumentally speaking, MCII isn't too flashy, but still manages to hold its own. Most songs consist of vocals, bass, drums, piano, and both an electric and acoustic guitar. This back-to-basics approach is refreshing in an increasingly electronic world, and recalls the classic rock sounds of the '60's and '70's."I'm Done Running from You" sounds like The Beatles with a bit more of an edge, while tracks like "Peace of Mind" and "Don't Let Me Go" tap into the folkier side of roots rock.

The highlights of the album are two frantically-paced rockers, "Change" and "Shout It Out." "Change" includes a ferocious guitar riff and excellent, wild drums. Suddenly, the noise gives way to an adventurous orchestral section backed by acoustic guitar and some build-up play on drums. Finally, the riff starts back up and a brief yet still frenzied final section appears. "Shout It Out" is the more tame of the two but still packs a punch, with a calm verse eventually morphing into a more agitated chorus. "Do I even know what I'm waiting for?" asks a self-doubting Cronin.

MCII, like Daft Punk's earlier entry on this list, is simply a fun album to listen to. There's nothing overly spectacular about it, but MCII perfectly emobodies the idea of a solid record. No weak points, always above average, and extremely consistent, the latest solo release from Mikal Cronin is thoroughly enjoyable and shows his promise as a rocker in the future.

Key Tracks: "Weight," "Shout it Out," "Change"

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