I was led to this album by a review on Salon.com, in which certain comparisons were made to a certain band who I've loved for quite some time now. Salon's rarely led me astray, so I tracked down the album, and was instantly hooked.
Just to get it out of the way, I see the reason for the Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons, but I'd ultimately reject them. Yes, Colin Meloy and Jeff Mangum have similar voices (though I'd say Meloy has a bit more range) and they appear, on the surface, to have similar song-writing styles. However, I'd say Mangum's more of novelist while Meloy is a short story writer. Mangum's masterpiece - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - was a grand sweeping epic of an album. Castaways & Cutouts feels like 10 intimate portraits.
Getting back to the album, I can say that I haven't been so instantly captivated by an album in a long, long time. (And, for the record, this is the first time ever that I've found myself with accordian line stuck in my head.) The album's a nice blend of more up-tempo songs and quieter, more instrospective numbers. The former quickly lodged themselves in my brain. The latter took a bit more work (somewhat like the entire followup album - Her Majesty etc. etc. etc), but proved to have quite a good deal going on, sonically speaking.
So, I'd reccommend this album to, essentially, everyone. Certainly to Neutral Milk Hotel fans, who will find this, at first, familiar, and then simply wonderful