Mikal Cronin – MKIII
Don’t let the cover to Mikal Cronin’s odd yet aptly titled album fool you–he cut his hair. No! you scream, not the only other well-maned indie rock god (a million split ends thank you J Mascis)! Don’t panic, becuse Cronin has moved on in other ways as well, having shorn himself of all the jangly clutter his previous albums seemed so fond of. Which is not to say that his eponymous debut nor MCII were at all bad or didn’t display the talent that the California Arts Graduate so obviously emotes on each and every track. The albums were messy in the way that a 24-year-old hastily throws together a picnic basket when he first learns that young women like that kind of thing–no real idea about wine, cheese, or how to look away when the lady’s skirt flips up in the wind, but still a pretty cool experience for all.
This time, MCIII (one wonders how far he will take the Roman Numerals…perhaps dropping them at L (50), much like the NFL will do next year), is so many breezy musical picnics and yet plays determinedly within a well-organized lyrical and instrumental framework. The wunderkind Cronin arranged and played nearly all of the record himself, including vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, piano, organs, saxophone, and the tzouras, a traditional Greek string instrument he heard while on tour in Athens. It feels as if Cronin is finally going big, even doing his own arrangements. Not satisfied with the sad and lonely violin of the earlier output Cronin arranged parts for a full string quartet.
“It’s a continuation of what I’ve been trying to do up until now, but I’m finding a better way to do it,” he says. “I’m finding a more successful way of working those unexpected elements and textures and instruments into a rock record, of exploring that wormhole and mushing everything together harmoniously. I like riding the line between the two,” he adds. “I like finding new ways to bring different musical worlds together.” He, much like multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner, seems to excel at riding that line that fuses established musical genres, thus infusing new life into a tired and repetitive musical industry.As if Cronin was once afraid to take a breath, knowing that it all might've collapsed if he paused… Click To Tweet
Recorded by Eric Bauer (worked with Ty Seagal) and mixed by Jesse Nichols at Fantasy Studios, the album pays homage to the LP record, in that it is split into “sides”, with the first five songs being of the straightforward variety perfected by power pop masters New Pornographers or Superchunk. Whereas Side B takes a much more dramatic symphonic-rock approach to telling some very personal story of breaking out of isolation and jumping into the dangers and beauties of being vulnerable in the outside world.
Serious as he can be, yet above all, Cronin maintains a sense of playfulness, evident on the new video for “Turn Around”, produced with comedians Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal who teamed up to recreate a shot-by-shot reenactment of Natalie Imbruglia’s music video “Torn”, throwing in some unexpected cameos, even eating a banana. This collaboration is part of JASH’s $5K Video Series where, JASH, the comedy network made up of Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts, pairs a musical act with a comedian, gives them $5000, and tells them to spend the money however they want, as long as they spend it all and come back with a video.
There is a duality to the album, in more than just the Side A / Side B aspect. The perfectionist sense of wanting to do it all himself is playfully pushed to the limits of balance by a fools rush in mentality that belied his previous albums and tempts him here again on tracks “Say”, “ii) Gold”, and “iv) Ready. As if Cronin was once afraid to take a breath, knowing that it all might’ve collapsed if he paused to take stock of the situation around him. But that is exactly what makes “Turn Around” a nearly perfect ode to taking the piss out of pop, expanding and contracting like a horse’s lungs on a quick sprint down the beach at sunrise — relax, breathe, we’ve got all goddamn beautiful day to enjoy. It becomes clear by “vi) Circle” “This is what I’ve got / This is what I’m looking for / Please be all around” that he is at least as self-aware as needs be to continue progressing towards a more succinct sound on each successive album.
May 1 Los Angeles, CA — Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
May 5 New York, NY — Bowery Ballroom
May 28 Barcelona, Spain — Primavera Sound
May 29 Nimes, France — Maroquinerie
Jun 1 London, UK — 100 Club
Jun 2 Brussels, Belgium — Botanique
Jun 5 Ravenna, Italy — Beaches Brew Festival
Jun 6 Athens, Greece — Plissken Festival
Jun 8 Berlin, Germany — Lido
Jun 9 Cologne, Germany — Gebaude 9
Jun 10 Amsterdam, Netherlands — Bitterzoet
Jun 20 Chicago, IL — Subterranean
Jul 12 Los Angeles, CA — Hollywood Bowl (w/ Death Cab for Cutie, Tune Yards)
Sep 5-7 Seattle, WA — Bumbershoot