Mikal Cronin’s star is rising 

click to enlarge Mikal Cronin
  • courtesy photo
  • With his latest recording “MCII,” San Francisco rocker Mikal Cronin is finally receiving his due recognition.
The last year was rough for San Francisco’s venerable and diverse music scene.

Outré retro-rockers Girls broke up, and promising new acts such as Weekend and Dominant Legs disbanded or moved. Prolific garage-rocker Ty Segall packed his bags for his home in Los Angeles, and John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees announced that he, too, would be heading to the warmer (and cheaper) climes of Southern California.

Thankfully for local music fans, Mikal Cronin remains in The City. He plays the Rickshaw Stop this week during its 10th anniversary celebration.

Despite a criminally underrated debut album in 2011, Cronin is often introduced as the pal of Segall, his higher profile collaborator. And though he produces an eclectic array of sounds — from somber elegies to chugging power-pop anthems — Cronin’s music is often lumped in with the spazzed-out garage rock embraced by Segall and Dwyer.

Yet with the 2013 release of his second album, “MCII,” Cronin finally may be escaping the shadows of his peers. The lauded release, which graced Rolling Stone’s year-end best-of list and a litany of indie-rock blogs, expanded on Cronin’s self-titled debut.

With piano, violin and other elements giving it an intimate and insular feel, its opening combination of angsty pop-nuggets “Weight” and “Shout it Out” may be the best one-two punch of anything recorded in 2013, and mournful tunes like “Piano Mantra” are stunning, mature and emotive.

Cronin, touring extensively with Segall’s band in 2014, says newfound attention to his music has been satisfying.

“I appreciate that a lot of people know me from playing in Ty’s band, but I always thought it was a little strange how often my music was described as just ‘garage rock,’” he says “That’s a pretty huge blanket term, and it’s nice to see people pulling back a little and examining my music for what it is.”

Cronin, 28, who describes himself as shy, filled lyric sheets of “MCII” with references to uncertainties people his age face, how they’re caught between the impulsiveness of youth and the responsibilities of adulthood.

But hearing adoring crowds joyfully exclaiming some of his more personal lyrics has been a slightly odd phenomenon.

“Sometimes when I play, I kind of almost black out and don’t realize the audience participation,” Cronin says. “But every now and then, I’ll become aware of how much people are embracing what I’m going through, and it’s a bit of strange feeling.”

Despite many breakthroughs in 2013, Cronin says his life has remained mostly the same: “I have opportunities now to play more shows and more music, but my day-to-day life really isn’t that different. It’s sad to see a lot of my friends move away from San Francisco, but I feel like I just got here, and I’m looking forward to sticking around for awhile.”


Mikal Cronin

Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St, SF

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $15 to $17

Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com

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Will Reisman

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