First Listen: Mikal Cronin, 'MCII'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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Denee Petracek

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The term "garage rock" too often suggests a disregard for craftsmanship — the idea that distorted guitars and agreeably blaring arrangements leave no room for impeccability. But Mikal Cronin's second album, MCII, mixes shambling rock with a perfectionist ear with quality control, as its star (who plays most of the instruments himself) applies a beachy sparkle to 37 minutes of fresh, fun rock 'n' roll.

Thematically, MCII focuses on one guy's efforts to process sweeping changes in his life — getting older, moving to a new town, falling into a new relationship — so it makes sense that it feels like the work of a young artist who's both newly grown-up and still growing. But the sneaky sophistication of its pop-rock sound is what really makes the record enduring: Inward-looking but notably less angst-ridden than its predecessor, MCII feels positively stuffed with briskly alluring, summer-ready, California-sunny earworms.

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