First, the bad news: Half Smiles is the final album from Guided By Voices. But the good news shouldn't surprise anyone: Bob Pollard is NOT gonna stop putting out records. For now, one might expect Pollard to sing his own swan song with minimal self-conscious fanfare, and Half Smiles is a rather unassuming affair. But Pollard isn't too casual, which elevates the album to a perfect farewell. Nothing feels like rehash; instead, Half Smiles strikes a balance between lo- and hi-fi with unpretentious, unpolished (but textured) character. Fans pining for the scratchy basement-tape days will never be happy, but if Half Smiles isn't a happy medium for them, it's their loss. Pollard's songwriting has matured. It happens, people! And though he is loved for his imperfections, Pollard's development as a songwriter works perfectly with his established sound. Each song is deceptively straightforward; "Window of My World" sounds like Zeppelin crossed with traditional GBV but (gasp!) makes something new out of both. Pollard and company pull off Half Smiles with rare balance and grace, which, in this case, makes parting truly a sweet sorrow.