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Mikal Cronin, Shannon & the Clams 

When: Tue., June 11, 6 p.m. 2013
Price: $10
One of the best qualities of one of the year’s best albums is that it isn’t by Ty Segall. Nothing against Segall, but it bums me out that Mikal Cronin is so inextricably linked to him, both as a member of his touring band and as part of the prolific west-coast garage scene for which Segall is something of a figurehead. (In 2009 they made an album together, Reverse Shark Attack, that was reissued in January by In the Red.) No, it’s not a bad affiliation to have—but it could give you the wrong idea about Cronin’s second solo record, MCII (Merge). If you missed his first one, you might be expecting reckless, trashy Segall-style scuzz ’n’ squeal on MCII, but it’s more Damien Jurado-style acoustic yarns than psychedelic wild-outs. (“Peace of Mind” has enough strings and lap steel in it to very nearly border on alt-country.) Maybe you saw this coming when Cronin signed with Merge after his debut—it’s a venerable bastion of indie rock—but on MCII the grungy 90s moments and loose guitar solos (some of which Segall contributed, of course) are wrapped in introspective, beautifully melodic pop, crowned by the ache in Cronin’s voice as he sings about entering the tail end of his 20s and “starting over for a long time.” It’s as profoundly emotional as it is carefully crafted—not only did Cronin record all the basic instrumental tracks himself, but he also wrings moments of stark sincerity from the music. On the all-acoustic love song “Don’t Let Me Go,” he hits the high notes in the chorus just as he sings, “Can’t take this feeling from me,” and later he admits “There’s a side of me that will still be yours.” It’s a serious reroute of my expectations for the album—but the fact that I thought I’d hear just another dose of charming, unpolished garage rock actually makes MCII even better in the end. —Kevin Warwick Shannon & the Clams opens.

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