Spin - "[I]t manages to be both lovely and adventurous..."
Personnel: Mikal Cronin (vocals, guitar, saxophone, piano, organ, drums, percussion); Alisa Rose, Irene Sazer (violin); Katrina Wreede (viola); Jessica Ivry (cello); Bill Swan (trumpet); Nick Carnes (horns).
Audio Mixer: Jesse Nichols.
Recording information: Bauer Mansion, San Francisco, CA.
Arranger: Mikal Cronin.
Going big is usually the stumbling block for any artist or band who started off small. Blowing up the arrangements, slicking up the production, or adding scores of extra instruments often does more harm than good, shining a harsh light on a lack of songwriting ideas or just making things seem so huge that the human element gets lost in the shuffle. Mikal Cronin's third album, MCIII, is the result of his efforts to go big, and in his case the gamble pays off big-time, resulting in his most pleasing record to date. MCIII is split into two thematic parts, with the first side being huge, hooky pop songs filled with pianos, strings, earwormy guitar lines, and some of the most straightforward and impressive melodies Cronin has committed to tape yet. Almost any one of them could be hit singles, especially the loping "Made My Mind Up," which has a solid '70s Tom Petty feel, and the stomping "Say." "Turn Around" may not have the same kind of hooks as those tracks, but it shows off Cronin's growth as a songwriter and producer as he crafts a melancholic wall of sound buttressed by some seriously lyrical string lines. The other side tells a coming-of-age story in six parts, with a less produced, more direct approach that harks back to the last album's sound. Balancing paint-peeling guitar rockers ("Gold," "Ready"), jangling pop songs ("Control," "Circle"), and string-heavy ballads ("Different"), the side is an affecting piece of work. Cronin's emotional honesty is bracing and the songs hit hard and stick, much like the first side but with a bit more power. The album isn't a huge leap from MCII, since that album was already very solid, but it's enough of one that it's worth mentioning. Cronin could have just kept cranking out the same album over and over; that he chose to take a risk and go big showed some real guts. That he was able to make it work as well as he did shows some real skill and should make anyone who liked the first two albums really happy. ~ Tim Sendra
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