Hopscotch Music Festival Featuring: Mikal Cronin
Ex Cops, Swearin', Late Bloomer
224 S. Blount
Raleigh, NC, 27601
Mikal Cronin's self-titled debut from 2011 was all about endings: the end of college, the end of a serious relationship, and the end of his time in Los Angeles, where he grew up. So it's no surprise that his sophomore release MCII—and first disc for Merge Records—is all about new beginnings.
"Since the first record came out, my life has changed quite a bit," Cronin says, referencing his move to San Francisco and tours with Ty Segall as well as with his own band. "I was presented with a whole new slew of problems and situations that I was trying to work through." "Am I Wrong" and "Shout It Out" dissect his fears over a new relationship, while "I'm Done Running from You" and "Weight" find him freaking out about what it means to grow up in the 21st century.
Recorded in late 2012 by Eric Bauer at Bauer Mansion in San Francisco (except for "Don't Let Me Go" which was recorded by Cronin at home), MCII includes guest appearances by K. Dylan Edrich (viola and violin on "Peace of Mind" and "Change"), Charles Moothart (drums on "Change" and "Turn Away"), Ty Segall (guitar solos on "Am I Wrong" and "I'm Done Running from You"), and Petey Dammit (slide guitar on "Peace of Mind").
Other than these few exceptions, Cronin played all of the instruments. "It all makes total sense to me, but when I step back, it sounds kind of schizophrenic," Cronin says. "Hopefully it all sounds enough like me to make sense."
Ex Cops features Brooklyn duo Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun. Their debut album is the first release of 2013 by a new label formed by influential NYC record store Other Music. "Boy/girl harmonies that waft in like a coastal breeze, and shimmering, jangling guitars that cast the songs' wide-eyed energy in a soft-focus blur." Pitchfork (7.8). "Harding and Bruun have proven themselves adept at creating infectious indie pop songs. Their songs are not only immediately appealing, but fluent in the indie pop and dream pop classics. . ." Pretty Much Amazing.
Swearin' co-frontperson Allison Crutchfield is only 23 years old, but she's been in the game forever already. A truncated history: She started the Ackleys as a ninth grader in Birmingham, AL, with her twin sister, Katie; they were on Warped Tour as high school students. After that band called it quits, the sisters formed P.S. Eliot in 2008, releasing two full-lengths and an EP over the course of their three-and-a-half-year existence. The sisters relocated from Birmingham to Brooklyn in 2011, months before pulling the plug on P.S. Eliot. When the band split, Allison and Katie's musical paths diverged, too: Katie went solo under the moniker Waxahatchee; Allison put together Swearin' with Jeff Bolt (drums), Keith Spencer (bass), and P.S. Eliot bandmate Kyle Gilbride (who shares guitar and vocal duties with Crutchfield). Swearin' unveiled a 6-song demo called What A Dump last December. Earlier this year, they released their self-titled debut LP on Salinas Records. With 2012 coming to a close, it seems safe to say Swearin' will be included in the conversation of the year's best indie-rock records.
The words "indie rock" are crucial here. While the term has long since ceased to have value as a descriptor, Swearin' deliver a sound that could serve as a definition for what the genre used to be. The band's combination of melody, distortion, and energy brings to mind the emo bands of the mid to late '90s, especially the Get Up Kids, Rainer Maria, the Promise Ring, and Jawbreaker. Gilbride's vocals are a dead ringer for those of a young Mac McCaughan; Crutchfield could probably stand in for Anna Waronker on a mid-'90s That Dog LP without anyone noticing. The pair's guitars have a furious squeal that brings to mind Built To Spill or Sebadoh; their instant-classic melodies are obscured by feedback and fuzz, an ancient indie-rock trick perfected by the likes of Archers Of Loaf and Pavement. Crutchfield was born in 1989 (the year the Pixies released Doolittle), and those tendencies are in her blood: In a short documentary about the Ackleys, filmed when Allison and Katie were still in high school, both sisters namecheck Guided By Voices as their primary songwriting influence.
We're two decades out from Slanted & Enchanted, and "indie rock" is enjoying something of a retro-chic revival (cf. Yuck, Japandroids) — meanwhile, the Promise Ring just concluded a brief (and no doubt profitable!) reunion at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and next month Jawbreaker will reissue Bivouac to celebrate its 20th birthday — but Swearin' doesn't sound like an attempt to cash in on the moment; the album's style:substance ratio is weighted heavily toward the consequent. The songs are compact, tightly constructed, smart, explosive, and very catchy. The highlights for me change as my relationship with the record grows, but I can't imagine anyone not being captured immediately by "Here To Hear," "Kenosha," or "Movie Star." The band moved from Brooklyn to Philadelphia earlier this year, and this week, they're headed out on tour for some shows with Japandroids. Tour dates are below, along with a full-album stream. Play it loud.
2 guys that love 80s/90s indie rock, punk, and grunge and 1 guy that is old enough to have lived through it. Using the old guy as our guide we seek to create original tunes that could have fit nicely in 1993.
Neil- Guitar, Vocals
Josh- Vocals, Bass
The Pour House Music Hall
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