Ben Gibbard has made no secret of his affection for the limp, cheese-pop stylings of Hall and Oates. Now Death Cab's frontman is foisting his own brand of literate light rock on fans. With the band's fourth studio album, the Washington state quartet has unveiled an indiefied reconfiguration of the soft-rock genre, one that fortunately bears no references to private eyes or maneaters. Except for the bittersweet gem "Death of an Interior Decorator" -- built on shimmering riffs that dart behind Gibbard's tenor like silvery fish -- most of the songs do without the intertwined guitars that Gibbard and Chris Walla used to such original effect in the past. Instead there are experiments in piano balladry ("Transatlanticism"), dirgelike spareness ("Passenger Seat") and acoustic numbers ("A Lack of Color") that keep alive the spirit of Elliott Smith. But as if to prove that the band's sac hasn't been completely severed and filed under E-Z Listening, Transatlanticism also unfurls a few anthems of heavy, cerebral rawk. The opener, "The New Year," explodes like a Roman candle with syncopated slices of distortion and feedback-drenched riffs. "Tiny Vessels" alternates between an effects-washed wave of tranquil guitars and a squalling power-chord chorus. Both tunes recall fellow Pacific Northwest homeboys Built to Spill. In "Expo 99," meanwhile, the quiet, throbbing beat suddenly erupts into a soaring wall of sound that suggests Smashing Pumpkins without Billy Corgan's overwrought solos. And without Hall and Oates' cheddar-soaked homilies.