Sound — 7
Many have classified the sound of this album as more simple and acoustic like "The Places You Have come to Fear the Most." It is, in that the rhythm section is often subjugated or not present and there is no electric guitar, but this is not like a follow-up to 'The Places' or "Swiss Army Romance". There is much more piano than those early records, and while there is some typical dashboard hooks and a reappearance of Chris' DbAbDbDbDbDb tuning, some songs like "Thick as Thieves" are composed of simple open and barre chords. The sound achieved here is often higher and lighter than those early records; "Fever Dreams" is poppier and more bubblegummy than any given song by the Wiggles. It's not all bad though- the levity contrasts well with some of the lower songs like the title track and "Matters of Blood and Connection," making for a pleasant and well balanced record.
Lyrics — 8
"Where There's Gold" leads off the album, and its lyrics make it seem like a revisiting of the song "Swiss Army Romance," with its sympathetic second person perspective. It has very good if simple music behind the words and, lyrically speaking, is quite possibly Dashboard Confessional's best song, second to only "Dusk and Summer." The lyrics of the entire album evidence strongly the maturity with which they were written. Even the weaker songs are well crafted. The vocals make constant use of Carrabba's extremely good range. Most songs are, at least in part, very high. One section of "Where There's Gold" is sung in a full falsetto, executed flawlessly. Good luck singing along... without being off key.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this is a mixed album. The good is spectacular, e.g. "Where There's Gold," "Matters of Blood and Connection," "The Widow's Peak." The bad is often tiresome to listen to; I often skip "These Bones: and "I Light My Own Fires Now." It's held back by such songs but not terribly. This is a very mature, well executed record. While the songs are often intricate, the general feel is clean and austere like the album art, which hearkens back to the covers of 'Summer's Kiss' and So Impossible.' It seems to be a logical continuation for Dashboard Confessional; It feels right. If mention of DC makes you think only of "Vindicated" and "Stolen," stay away from this album. If you've heard all of Dashboard's albums and generally like it- or even if you only like the first two and/or the EPs, definitely give this a shot and you'll find something you like.