Death Cab For Cutie made a creative and commercial breakthrough last year with We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes, a remarkable bit of shimmering pop that proved equally conversant in subtly aggressive rock and sweet, falsetto-enhanced balladry. The dynamic concoction that resulted, put over by Christopher Walla's bright guitar sounds and singer Benjamin Gibbard's impeccable songwriting, never sounded a wrong note within a surprisingly ambitious musical and emotional framework. The Photo Album lives up to that standard in spots, and features some of Gibbard's most strikingly confessional lyrics, but its 38-minute run time is often marked by pleasant but static, middle-of-the-road material. The result is the inevitable track-skipping that We Have The Facts made temporarily obsolete: The Photo Album pulls off a brisk, Superchunkish pop buzz on "We Laugh Indoors," and the disc is notable for Gibbard's disarmingly scathing indictments of Los Angeles ("Why You'd Want To Live Here") and a recently deceased absentee father ("Styrofoam Plates"). The latter track is particularly striking—"You're a disgrace to the concept of family / The priest won't divulge that fact in his homily," Gibbard seethes—but that emotionally raw highlight is surrounded by a substantial helping of agreeably middling filler. There are worse sins, to be sure, but Death Cab For Cutie was consistently at its best as recently as last year.