Mikal Cronin - MC III

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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 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. It 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.

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