I was amazed that there hadn't been a review of this album yet, especially with Death Cab's relative popularity at the moment, so I thought I'd give it a go.
I bought this album after loving Plans, and upon the first few listens I just thought it was like the band said, "if Transatlanticism is the inhale, Plans is the exhale" - This album just seemed to me to be an inferior version of Plans just with some heavier guitar chucked in for good measure. As I gave the album more and more listens I realised that it had another dimension to it. There are songs on this album that just suddenly hit you with their greatness, 'We Looked Like Giants' a prime example.
Ben Gibbard's beautifully clear lyrics are in abundance here, and there are a number of heartwarming and heartbreaking songs on offer here - Tiny Vessels ("she was beautiful, but she didn't mean a thing to me"), the epic, narrowly optimistic title track - ("I need you so much closer now") and the excellent closer A Lack Of Color - ("And when I see you, I really see you upside down. But my brain knows better, it picks you up and turns you round")
I think that the truly good thing about this album is the way that it surprises you with each listen, you'll be settled into a song and it'll suddenly move in another direction. All in all, this is a catchy, tender, thoughtful, and epic piece of work from a fine band.
I can't comment on any of their early albums, but I'd also recommend Plans, another excellent album.