Mikal Cronin MCIII Album Cover

The best power pop artists, from Big Star on through Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, and Sloan, make it sound so easy that they leave you wondering why aren’t more bands capable of the perfect three-minute rock single every time? After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a drummer, to write a simple melody and put a guitar on it.

And yet, songs like Mikal Cronin’s new one, “ii) Gold,” from his Merge Records album coming this May, remain rare. Cronin sings. He plays guitar. He does a little wail and the back half of the track has a little flair. It sounds simple, and it is simple, until you realize Cronin had to be precise with every last squawk to make this work so immaculately. That’s what separates the greats: They play with a sense of freedom, but had it planned along.