How do you say goodbye to a city? To a country even? How do you make peace with a place that has seeped into your very being and shaped who you are, what you want, and what you believe? For over five long years I called Barcelona home, a fifth of my life devoted to a dream and an ideal, to the feeling that this was the place I was meant to be. Friends were envious, visits frequent. But under the veneer of an idyllic Mediterranean existence doubts lingered, steadily growing into a permanent, nagging presence. Ghosts lurked around every corner, the twin phantoms of heartbreak and spurned opportunities stalking me wherever I went. The end was inevitable. My time was up.

But how do you say goodbye to a city? Change isn't easy, something Mikal Cronin is all too aware of.

"I've been starting over for a long time / I'm not ready for another day, I fail at feeling new."

It's the last day of June 2013. A glorious, clear dawn is breaking over the wide-open plains of El Prat de Llobregat, and I'm sitting on a bus heading towards the airport, and a new life. It's my first time listening to Cronin's MCII and that's the first line I hear after pressing play.

"The time is right, I'm only getting older."

This is the second. Fate, serendipity, call it what you will; I'm stunned. Here's someone who understands the pain in my heart and lump in my throat, why it's a wrench to leave but has to be done. By the time he's lamenting how he's "not made out for the simple path / I'll take it day to day" there's a tear in my eye. There are nine tracks to go, but I'm already smitten; I'm going to love this album. A year later, it's still on my phone.

Cronin's masterstroke was to pull back the layers of distortion and punk rock sludge just enough to reveal a heartfelt sentiment and vulnerability. These are not aloof, slacker anthems for the comfortably privileged, but address the real fears of a generation of Millennials who feel lost and abandoned - "Have I been learning nothing all along?" he wryly notes on 'I'm Done Running From You'. His observations cut deep into a vein of truth - apprehensive and disenfranchised, the future (for some) looks anything but bright - and easily eclipse those who trade on matching lo-fi scuzz pop to lyrics about California being sunny and staring at the ocean.

That all this comes wrapped in a beautiful series of melodies and hooks might surprise those more familiar with his work alongside Ty Segall, but the sheer richness of Cronin's compositions are what set him apart from so many of his peers. Maybe it's his B.F.A. degree in music, maybe it's just experience, but he's acquired the knack of dropping exquisite details in just the right places; the piano intro of 'Weight', the assorted strings of 'Peace of Mind' and 'Change', and the haunting beauty of 'Piano Mantra', possible the best alt torch song you've ever heard. And when he does dig out the pedals it's exhilarating, not overpowering, a heady six-string rush that provides just enough backbone before quietly retreating into the background.

2013 was a brilliant year for music in general, and MCII sat neatly alongside stellar albums by the likes of Merchandise, No Age, and Parquet Courts, but it's the one that's meant the most to me over the last 12 months. It's been a comfort, a joy, and a constant friend through times of change and readjustment, in figuring out the future and dealing with the past. Not many songs force me to pick up the guitar and work out the chords straight away but 'Don't Let Me Go' did; I defy anybody who claims that there's no emotional mileage or inspiration left in simple, acoustic strumming to watch this and remain unmoved.

So thanks Mikal, for being that shoulder I needed. You'll forever have my gratitude. When this is playing I remember; life's not meant to be perfect, and we're not alone. There can be no greater solace.