That said, Stephen credits him Neal greatly for advancing their songwriting and structuring - I'll take the mediocre album for the lessons they learned.
I might be the rarity who thinks NS was the natural step from Cities. Cities was very dark and introspective; a lot of NS is melancholic and full of longing, which makes sense. I'm glad they never tried to make another Cities - imo, only with DITW did they mis-step a bit, but I give them props for never trying to sell out an appeal to a bigger audience. They seem to genuinely write songs that they love and for the fans they have.