A new, indelible cast of characters is inducted into the FOW pantheon of stars on Traffic And Weather: Yolanda Hayes, a sullen object of affection behind the glass at the Department Of Motor Vehicles; Seth Shapiro and Beth Mackenzie, two lonely, hardworking New Yorkers who cross paths - sort of - in "Someone To Love" (which features Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur singing backing vocals); the exhausted couple in "Michael and Heather At The Baggage Claim", dragging themselves onto an airport shuttle bus after a long trip; newscasters in heat in the album's title track, and many others. Hapless protagonists like the suspicious boyfriend of "This Better Be Good" and the hit-man target in "Strapped For Cash" are also classic Fountains Of Wayne narrators.
Travel and transportation continue to figure heavily in the on-the-go world of FOW. The guy who buys himself a "'92 Subaru" is convinced that the right pimped-out ride is all he needs to get the girl; in the Beatlesque "i-95" a driver explores a rest area gift shop late at night, on the way to visit his loved one; we hear of "an eerie kind of sadness on the highway today" in the Gram Parsons-tinged "Fire In The Canyon" (featuring backing vocals by the Candy Butchers' Mike Viola, who was the voice of "That Thing You Do"). The misery of sitting in coach on a delayed flight is examined in the wistful waltz "Seatbacks And Traytables" (which contains a guest appearance on guitar by James Iha). And in the semi-epic "New Routine", we follow a series of characters who each randomly pick a new place to live, only to discover someone else there who can't wait to move away.