One of the biggest changes from the first two Shins albums to this one seems to be a little tweak in production. James Mercer's vocals have moved just a tiny bit more to the forefront. I don't necessarily think is either a positive or negative development. I kind of liked the first album's production, which made them seem like more of a collaborative affair, but you can definitely tell that the success of the band has allowed them to upgrade their recording.
Like albums 9 and 10 on this list, there's some gentle evolution here compared to the first two albums, but it's still very much a Shins record, and if you were to see them live, it wouldn't necessarily be readily apparent which songs were from which "era". But there's comfort in consistency, so I don't really think that's a negative. It's different enough to be fresh, but similar enough to be familiar (and I swear I didn't read the Pitchfork review right before using the words "comfort" and "familiar").
Sleeping Lessons and Australia are as good as anything they've ever done, and Phantom Limb was an excellent choice as lead single, as it introduced the bands' sound to new listeners very well. Beginning to end, there's a slow point or two. The "Black Wave/Split Needles" combo isn't may favorite part of the album, but I think they scored on their forays into new sounds on Sea Legs and Red Rabbits.
Here are Sleeping Lessons, Australia, and Turn on Me w/ Anita Robinson (Viva Voce) on the David Letterman show.