Beach Fossils are perpetually on the cusp of greatness. On their self-titled debut, they offered an appealing collection that demonstrated more than just a flair for reverb. Follow-up Clash the Truth was moodier, but also less consistent, feeling like the band was trying their hand at post-punk without fully committing. It was still an admirable effort that gave reason to anticipate whatever Beach Fossils would do next.

Four years later, we have Somersault. Even if you’ve barely listened to any prior Beach Fossils efforts, you’ll immediately notice a difference with their third album. On opener and lead single, ‘This Year’, shimmering guitar comes through in an almost blinding fashion. “This year I told myself it’d be a better one,” Dustin Payseur sings before admitting to promising to be a better friend. It isn’t a false promise of self-improvement, nor is it an exercise in self-pity. Not only do the lyrics offer a closer glimpse into Payseur’s mind than ever before, but the strings add beauty and tension. Past Beach Fossils albums felt like an overcast day at the beach. Here, the clouds are still present, but the sun is creeping in.

Instrumentally, Somersault is Beach Fossils’ richest album to date. It isn’t so much that they’re adding strings, flute, piano, harpsichord and saxophone, but that they understand how to utilize these without smothering the arrangements or trying to cover up weak songwriting. On ‘Saint Ivy’, sparkling flute, contemplative piano, electric guitar and eventually soaring strings each get their moment, but it never feels like a forced catharsis is occurring. It never feels like a forced catharsis is occurring, even though Payseur’s lovesick lyrics like “I wish that there could be another way/ but I know that you made up your mind,” offer the opportunity. On ‘Closer Everywhere’, languid harpsichord follows Payseur as he sings of feeling like floating, while strings seem to raise his voice above the clouds.

Payseur has never been the most complex lyricist, and Somersault mostly continues that trend, but his words carry weight like never before. His musings of “I hear your voice inside my head/ can’t remember what you said,” on ‘Closer Everywhere’ perfectly distills how those lost in thought are rarely thinking concretely. Highlight ‘Social Jetlag’ is the most crushing song of the entire album. Social murmurs and twinkling piano lead into Payseur’s heavy yet fragile vocals; “Make our way up to the roof, been awake for days/ in a shadow of the night, I wanna fade away,” he sings before the chatter eventually resumes as though his thoughts are going unsaid, or those around him are pretending not to have heard him.

There’s also more of a bite than ever to Payseur’s lyrics. While Somersault is by no means his bid to be the next Morrissey, it does possess a previously unrevealed sense of humor. The effectiveness of said humor is another matter; The couplet “I really hate your poetry/ you hate mine the same,” on ‘Down the Line’ has a decent wit to it, but prior references to Wall Street and A.C.A.B. are forced in their topicality. The otherwise faultless ‘Saint Ivy’ is marred by the wince-inducing “Don’t believe in Jesus/ Heaven knows I’m wasting my time.” Payseur’s more revealing lyrics seem to come at the price of not knowing when to self-edit.

Still, if Payseur and the rest of the band played it completely safe, Somersault would be pleasant but wouldn’t warrant repeat listens. This is the most inspired Beach Fossils album yet, in that every song, successful or not, has its own mind and couldn’t be mistaken for another. Even when they could theoretically coast on the talents of a guest vocalist, like on the Rachel Goswell-featuring ‘Tangerine’, the band offers an incredible lushness and Payseur’s vocals prove a strong match to the Slowdive singer’s. Speaking of guests, perhaps the most divisive track will be ‘Rise’, where Memphis rapper Cities Aviv offers downcast spoken word about relationship problems against somber saxophone. At less than two minutes it’s fairly superfluous, but provides a decent lead-in to the robust and depressed guitar and bass of ‘Sugar’, where Payseur confesses to “feeling nothing” in the chorus, before his reverb-glazed vocals give the song an earned cathartic conclusion.

It’s a shame Beach Fossils can’t quite stick the landing. Penultimate track ‘Be Nothing’ starts strongly with a patient progression and Payseur’s glowing vocals asking, “Did you find your ocean/ or were you just floating?” However, the song takes a misguided turn for the overwhelming with drum fills and screaming guitars. Meanwhile, closer ‘That’s All For Now’ feels like a cheery shrug of a song rather than an attempt to offer any sort of conclusiveness.

In the time since Clash the Truth, Beach Fossils have perhaps been better known as the former band of DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith. Somersault is an exciting display of growth without feeling like a compromise. They might not yet be great, but this album indicates a band on the verge of a breakthrough.