Great write-up, Joe. I'm in a similar position with this album, though I think I like it a bit more than you. Bands like the Dangerous Summer are in this constant battle against the nostalgia of their fans. I think that, in many ways, Jimmy Eat World are in that battle too. They're not bands that write sonically or lyrically complex songs, and they aren't bands that switch up their sound a lot with every release. They're bands who have built passionate followings from writing songs that a lot of people relate to, and because of that, their albums become time capsules for a moment in our lives when it felt like every lyric of every song was written for us specifically. As we grow up, things change. We trade the late nights of youthful promise for long days of routine, and it's harder to find something that feels like it's telling our life story. But when albums come along from our long-held favorite bands, we hope for a return to the way things were. Sometimes, I think those feelings result in unfair disappointment or dismissal of albums that are every bit as great as a band's peak work. Other times, as with Golden Record, I think the songs just lack something that the band has always inherently possessed, and that's the heartbreak for me here. The melodies simply are not as strong this time around, and the lyrics don't hit as hard as a result.
I think it's important that you throw the counter-point in there though, because loving music in the way a lot of us do truly is a remarkable thing. "There are some people who will never feel the things that you have felt, they will never attach memories and moments and people to the music that you love, and they will never know the joy of singing along to a song that sets a fire inside your heart."
That's my favorite part of what you wrote, and it really is so, so true. I majored in music and have a ton of friends who did the same, but I'm not sure a single one of them is as passionate, obsessive, or detailed about the whole life soundtrack thing as I am. There are a lot of ways to appreciate music, but I think a lot of us don't realize that the way we do it is actually pretty rare. I'm personally so thankful I've found that in my life, because I can't imagine where I would be without it. It's changed everything.
Anyway, TL;DR I'm sure. Good stuff, thanks for writing it.