I’m not sure it’s possible to not like Mikal Cronin. It’s like saying you don’t like love, reminiscing, and looking longingly back at your youth. If you can say you don’t like any of those things then I suppose it’s possible to dismiss Mr. Cronin’s music as fluff and too syrupy sweet. If you feel that way you can leave this review right now. The door’s right behind you. Goodbye.
Okay, now that those folks are gone we can talk. Man, what a bunch of weirdos. Back to MKIII. Were you enamored with Mikal Cronin’s past two albums? Do you love a good power pop song? Do band names like Jellyfish, Red Kross, Fountains of Wayne, and The Grays make you feel all tingly and hungry for multi-layered vocal harmonies and minor chord changes in choruses? If so, MKIII is going to be your summer spin. And possibly your fall and winter jam, too.
There’s not going to be a song you’ll skip over on here, I’ll tell you that right now. The album opens with the big and beautiful “Turn Around” and doesn’t let up clear through to “I’ve Been Loved”, a heart wrenching ballad complete with piano and lilting strings. It’s chamber pop at it’s finest. The second half of the album consists of a mini-concept album, tied together with musical movements. Starting with “Alone”, it opens like Elliot Smith recording with the Magik Magik Orchestra, before blowing up into a barrage of cymbals and distorted guitar. We move into “Gold” which is all whining feedback and punk attitude, mixed with an almost Middle-Eastern vibe. “Control” comes down into a sunny acoustic strummer, part Kinks reminiscing and Byrds southern California stoned bliss. “Ready” borrows some fuzz crunch from Cronin’s pal Ty Segall and gets all Stooges on us, with Cronin’s ever present hook-heavy vocals. “Different” is such a beautiful little number it’s hard to even describe it. Just listen. “Circle” ends this wonderful song cycle with a blast of pop confection and melancholy that only Mikal Cronin can create nowadays. Do I know what’s going on in this “concept”? Not really. All I know is that it’s a beautiful song cycle that makes me feel sad and happy and a lump forms in my throat every time I listen to it. It’s Zombies-worthy. That says a lot right there.
MKIII takes all the high notes of Cronin’s previous two albums and pushes them even further into the stratosphere. It’s longing, upbeat, heartbreaking, and ultimately one of the best power pop records I’ve heard since the days when Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning walked the earth(I think they still walk the earth, they just don’t make music like they used to.) At his core, Mikal Cronin is a romantic. A lovelorn artist giving us a piece of his heart every time he hits record and strums his guitar. He may get loud with his pal Ty Segall, but when he’s left to his own devices it’s all about the pop sheen. And we’re the better for it.
8.8 out of 10