THE QUASI-CATCHY, slightly askew songs collected on Mikal Cronin's 2011 solo debut elbowed their way through fogs of fuzz. Mikal Cronin merely hinted at the pop auteur hiding beneath all that reverb-y, beachside melody. Cronin—who spends a considerable portion of his time manning the low-end as bassist for the Ty Segall Band—knows his sophomore solo effort, MCII, is a much more clearly focused and fully realized album. It's evident within the first few notes of the opening track, "Weight," coming by way of a piano intro. Later, there are strings, and enough syrupy melodies to saturate a stack of hotcakes.
"I just heard all this stuff in my head and I didn't want to restrict myself from using it for fear of being too poppy," says Cronin. "I'm going with my instinct, which right now is to have that kind of ornate instrumentation and bigger arrangements."
That it works shouldn't come as a surprise. Songwriters of Cronin's ilk must hear these fissures of harmony, these synchronized crescendos in some sort of voodoo stupor. Despite the fact that he's got a veritable legion of musician friends he could have tapped to assist him in recording his slew of new tunes—Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, the aforementioned Mr. Segall—Cronin, with few exceptions (sure, Segall is on it), played every note of music on MCII.
"I have a clearer idea in my head what I want the different parts to be," explains Cronin. "It's easier for me to do it than to try and translate that for someone else and still get it exactly how I want."
The swinging garage-pop of Cronin's first album hangs around, but he amps up its presence with lots of layered guitars, more harmonies, and a distinctly timeless ear for addictive melodies. "Shout It Out," "Am I Wrong," and "See It My Way" are all but instant rock classics, trimming the fat of obtuse spacey-ness that his debut sometimes strayed into, and forging ahead with crisp, exciting, and alive-sounding tunes.
"Maybe a couple records down the line will just be a punk record," wonders Cronin, "but I kinda doubt it."