By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Onetime Bay Area garage-pop songwriter Mikal Cronin returns to San Francisco to play songs from his new album Seeker at the Independent Wednesday night.

Initially coming to recognition as part of SF garage-psych wunderkind Ty Segall’s extended circle of collaborators (Cronin played bass in Segall’s live band as well Orange County garage-surf favorites the Moonhearts with multi-instrumentalist Charlie Moothart), Cronin’s broke out on his own with his eponymous solo debut on Trouble in Mind Records in 2001. A stunning collection of songs that offered a heady mix of harmonized vocals, earworm melodies, raw fuzz guitar and fractured kitchen-sink arrangements, the recording quickly established Cronin as a talent to be reckoned with.

A couple of years later, Cronin released his second effort MCII for Merge Records tempered the garage-psych elements to focus more on plaintive power-pop melodies. The album received universally glowing reviews and elevated the songwriter to a headlining club act and festival performer in the U.S. and abroad as he made appearances at Pitchfork, FYF, the Great Escape, the Lowlands Festival and more.

Cronin further refined his sound with the lush orchestrations and unusual instruments heard on his follow-up MCIII in 2015, but the album hewed close to the template laid by its predecessor. The songwriter’s time would be occupied with more work with Segall over the next few years — recording three albums and touring heavily — but after struggling with a bout of writer’s block and the difficult end to a relationship, Cronin has returned with his first new recording in four years.

Tracked with fellow musicians from Segall’s Freedom Band, Seeker matches the intricate string and horn arrangements of Cronin’s last two albums with a widescreen classic rock sound on the album opening “Shelter” and “I’ve Got Reason” that find echoes in Neil Young and Tom Petty. Cronin and his current live band return to the Bay Area for the first time since playing a Burger Boogaloo pre-party in Oakland last July, headlining the Independent Wednesday night.

He will be joined by LA-based songwriter and member of the Freedom Band and punk group Feels, Shannon Lay, who released her debut album for Sub Pop entitled August this past summer. Recorded with Segall at his home studio, the spare, shimmering collection of original songs recalls the heartbreaking fragility of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith and includes a gorgeous cover of folk singer Karen Dalton’s version of the Dino Valenti track “Something on Your Mind.”

Michael Cronin with Shannon Lay
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m. $15-$17
The Independent