MCIII is the third album from Californian singer-songwriter Mikal Cronin. Marked by the lush arrangements, stunning melodies, and deeply personal lyrical work for which Cronin is now known, the album is also a deliberate attempt to simply “go big.”

Written and recorded over the course of 2014, between long bouts of touring, MCIII finds the Laguna Beach native splitting his latest full-length statement into two distinct halves. On Side A, behold a shimmering tsunami of furious, undeniable pop songs. On Side B, marvel at a beautifully wrought concept record in miniature, built around the radiant retelling of what Cronin calls his “coming-of-age” story: After leaving California to go to school in the Pacific Northwest, he found himself alone and adrift, struggling with debilitating back pain and a dissolving sense of self. “It’s about a pivotal moment in my life that changed things, just within a couple of months,” he says. “It was a shifting point that sent me on the path to doing what I’m doing right now.”

As he did on his self-titled 2011 debut and 2013’s MCII, Cronin arranged and played nearly all of the record himself, including the tzouras, a traditional Greek string instrument he heard and subsequently bought while on tour in Athens. There’s French horn, saxophone, and trumpet. There are mood-altering crescendos and heartbreaking turns-of-phrase, guitars both gorgeous and pugnacious. No longer satisfied with the sound of “just one string player,” Cronin arranged parts for a full string quartet instead. “It’s a continuation of what I’ve been trying to do up until now, but I’m finding a better way to do it,” he says. “I’m finding a more successful way of working those unexpected elements and textures and instruments into a rock record, of exploring that wormhole and mushing everything together harmoniously. I like riding the line between the two,” he adds. “I like finding new ways to bring different musical worlds together.”