Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Future Nostalgia Review: Mikal Cronin @ The EARL

Mikal Cronin @ The EARL (Atlanta, GA) - March 11, 2012
Review: Jeffrey K.

Someone needs to tell Mikal Cronin that he's too young to sound so jaded. He's fed up: fed up with his doomed romantic relationship, fed up with the structured life of youth, fed up with having to slog through college to finally show the world what he's worth. If his eponymous debut masterpiece is any indication, he should only be looking forward. Not only was it the most overlooked record of 2011, it was also the best. The brilliant first cut, "Is It Alright," is the perfect primer for the gem of a record that follows. It opens with lush, Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies and ends with a furious, psychedelic-garage freak-out, complete with a flute solo. You immediately get the sense that he would have fit in as well with the Elephant 6 Collective as he does with the San Francisco garage scene where he cut his teeth.

So just how great is Mikal Cronin? Ty Segall, his band-mate from The Moonhearts, who has recently obtained massive critical success with his last two records, Melted and Goodbye Bread, could be selling out crowds touring on his own. Instead, he chooses to tour as Mikal's guitarist, playing to crowds a fifth of the size he would command headlining his own tour. In Pitchfork's Guest List: Best of 2011 column, which gave several musicians the opportunity to name their own favorite records of the year, Segall chose to name his top 10 Mikal Cronin songs ( "Again & Again" should have been way higher, Ty - c'mon!). Ty is one of the hardest working musicians working right now and it was exciting to see him provide such devoted support to his friend, who clearly deserves his chance in the spotlight.

His first Atlanta set as a headliner was brilliant. Opening the show with the aforementioned "Is It Alright," he set the pace. Segall had such a face-melting guitar solo during the coda that I thought the speakers could explode. It should be noted how fantastic a guitarist Segall has become over the last few years of relentless touring and hard work. The rhythm section, which also happens to be Segall's backing band on his own tours, was solid, steadily pulsating over Cronin's sunny melodies. Cronin gently strummed his 12-string guitar, half-smiling, as he bounced along to album highlights "Situation" and "Apathy." Cronin has a real sense of pacing to his music. Songs build up and quiet down only to explode in a cascade of glimmering guitars. Few songs demonstrate this better than "Get Along," probably the best break-up song of last year. As the song breaks down, only Mikal and his guitar are left playing as he sings with a cracked voice, "When I'm out on my own I'm not thinking about you-oooOOOoo." It was so infectious that the entire crowd had to sing along. For the last few songs of the set, he ditched the 12-string and moved on to his Gibson guitar, playing some of the more heavy songs from his debut and his latest 7" ("Green & Blue" and "Tide").

As he left the stage, not expecting to return, the enthused crowd demanded one more song. Clearly humbled, he came back on stage to cover Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World." Cronin hasn't obtained the attention he deserves just yet, but just wait: the whole wide world will indeed soon be noticing.

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