Sound — 8
The sound of The Shins is what always drew me to them. The acoustic work is unmatched, the drums are different and inviting, and, as always, the vocals are what make this album what it is. From when "Sleeping Lessons" takes off in the middle of the song, you can feel the excitement in the album, and you can't help but smile. It goes from there directly into "Australia", a happy song with great chords backing great vocals, possibly the best on this album. The album continues with songs like "Phantom Limb", the first single of the disc but by far not the best, "Girl Sailor", another one of the best tracks here, and ends with "A Comet Appears", a great song that's a little slower and different. No doubt The Shins have drawn away from their original style ("Black Wave", "Sealegs"), but there are still some gems on here for the original Shins fans ("Australia", "Turn on Me", "Girl Sailor"). The only thing I don't like about the sound is that it can get a little awkward and very different, which is not bad, but it doesn't sound like the Shins, and that is bad. Still great though, most likely one of the best of the year.
Lyrics — 10
There is no doubting that James Mercer knows what he's doing. His voice is one of the best in the indie world, and he uses it as such. They don't get tiring or repetitive, but rather get better as the album continues. His lyrics go perfectly with his voice and with the music itself. I suggest listening to "Split Needles", "Phantom Limb", and "Sealegs" for great examples of Mercer's voice, but the entire album holds great vocals, so check the entire thing out! You won't regret it.
Overall Impression — 9
These days, everyone seems like they're trying to change their style. Usually, the results are bad. Not for the Shins. This album drifts from their style, while still retaining the Shins feel. Everyone can enjoy this album: young or old, man or woman, emo or metalhead. There's something here for everyone, and the Shins continue to amaze me and they continue to convince me that they are one of the greatest bands today. The acoustic guitar work is perfect, the vocals are flawless, and the entire thing in itself, amazing.