Mikal Cronin is a Ty Segall collaborator who now has two albums of sweet, summery power pop under his belt. MCII follows the same kind of glory days revitalizing that Segall has made a name for himself with, though Cronin skews a little closer to a modern understanding of indie pop. One way to look at MCII is as MC5 meets Belle and Sebastian, with those particular reference points continually trading off at the forefront of MCII‘s sound. There is the ever-looming threat of visceral and prodigal guitar attacks, but fortunately nothing ever comes of this; MCII plays out its time here on earth as a sweet, if a little too light, piece of power pop.
“Change” begins with a guitar assault that Cronin slides smartly under some of his most swooning and pacified vocals on the album. Though not necessarily the most interesting singer, Cronin manages to go very soft without his voice ever coming off as weak or boring – his voice remains at the center of every song, providing for some neat articulation against the backdrop of reverby, open-air guitar work. MCII has the occasional burst of orchestration, and sometimes – like on “Change” – this can feel a little more overwrought than seems necessary.
“Don’t Let Me Go” provides the album’s first (very necessary) break from the overdriven power-pop that kicks into full throttle after opening track “Weight.” Despite being the only true acoustic track on the album, the aforementioned twee-pop reference points seem almost actively absent from “Don’t Let Me Go.” Thanks to some vibrant falsetto in the background, “Don’t Let Me Go” sounds like a one man version of an acoustic performance by two people (perhaps meant to be in the vein of a CSNY song, but “More Than Words” is what first comes to mind). The slip from “Don’t Let Me Go” into “Turn Away” is almost jarring, but the track manages to wrangle itself in and out of a nice confluence of acoustic sensibilities with garage rock ones.
Closing number “Piano Mantra” is a fairly unnecessary bit of melancholia, utterly bereft of the bouncy, If You’re Feeling Sinister-styled piano work on “Weight.” Indeed, if MCII has one fatal flaw, it’s that the opening track sets it up for a payoff that could never be delivered, and whose ethos is almost completely disinherited by the time we get to the closing song. “Weight” is a perfect reconciliation between British twee, west coast garage rock, and post-psychedelic vocal leaps; but even though MCII struggles a little to keep its initial designs afloat in the mix, this is still a great album for the start of the summer and the potential for driving ten miles over the speed limit down a deserted coastal highway – something light and peaceful that is neither small nor weak.