Mikal Cronin has said that he wanted his third album "to sound heavy, but heavy in more of a pop way," and it does; it's a beautifully arranged pop record, complete with string-and-voice compositions ("Different"), horns ("Alone") and a solo on a Greek stringed instrument called a tzouras ("Gold"). But to talk only of these things on MCIII is like talking only about the decorative icing frills and plastic couple on a three-story wedding cake. It's the construction here, the way Cronin has put it all together, that makes it special; it's the songs.
Cronin has always known his way around a melody, but on MCIII, he's refined it to a needle's point and woven that skill throughout a collection of immaculately written songs. Opener "Turn Around" swoops beautifully into its longing pre-chorus, "Feel Like" hops around innovative chord structures with ease and "I've Been Loved" beguiles with a melody that feels simple despite its dynamism and relative complexity. This is all amplified on the record's second side, a miniature concept LP that tells the tale of Cronin's musical turning point a decade ago, in which the lyrics, moods and music all complement the narrative.
It's a feat of musical arrangement and of lyricism, sure, but in essence, it's the songwriting on MCIII that really makes it such an achievement. (Merge)