What keeps Transatlanticism from being merely mopey is the production of Cutie's guitarist Chris Walla. Walla helmed the Stratford 4's Love & Distortion, a piece of shoegazer porn that successfully channels the spirit of '91, and he brings the same love for detailed soundscapes to Cutie's work. The more upbeat pop songs of their last LP, The Photo Album, are mostly gone, replaced by lush ballads buoyed by synthesizer buzzes, pianos and arena-ready power chords. Transatlanticism's high-water mark is the title track, an eight-minute epic that gradually swells up from a morose silence, finally ending with an urgent choir and one of Gibbard's best vocal performances yet, as he finds every possible nuance in the mantra "I need you closer to me." The song is a clear successor to the 2001 single "Stability" -- and a drastic improvement, as well. These may be the same pictures as The Photo Album, but they've been placed in beautiful new frames.