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The indie singer-songwriter boosters can give up on Ron Sexsmith, Pop Superstar. If it didn’t happen after the last five albums of perfect tunes and bittersweet lyrical observations delivered in his strong, flexible baritone, it’s not going to happen on the heels of Cobblestone Runway. But Sexsmith’s music grows more elegant with each effort, and he may be the smartest commentator on the quixotic nature of love next to Stephin Merritt—minus the coruscating misanthropy that so titillates Merritt fans. Like Mr. How Fucking Romantic, however, Sexsmith makes unfashionable, wildly sophisticated pop that pretends to simplicity. He has a dabbler’s taste and an aficionado’s understanding of how to fold other genres unironically into his acoustic mix, gliding along the sea-salty rhythms of bossa nova or the slick boom-chick of ’60s cine-pop. Even the most unobtrusive sing-along can harbor weird touches, such as the sinewy wah-wah on “Dragonfly on Bay Street,” the fuzzed, jammy outro on “Heart’s Desire,” or the dissonant susurration of something that sounds like an espresso machine on “These Days.” Each nice little tune is put together with the precision of a clock, lyrics of romantic optimism (“Your eyes are burning low/As you look out on this morning/But your eyes will return to their former glory” go Runway’s opening lines) playing against the impassioned swells of strings from the golden age of soul on “The Less I Know” or the musing piano sketching the nature scenes of “Gold in Them Hills.” All of it holds up Sexsmith’s big, low, Paul McCartney-ish voice, with its thick-throated catch and surprising agility. For all of these songs’ instant memorability, there isn’t a cheap or easy moment on the record. And for someone who’s supposed to be a rock star by now, that’s an impressive amount of considered effort. —Arion Berger