If the Cold War Kids were a cat, I’m not sure which life they’d have used up by now in the ever-changing landscape of 21st century indie alternative. It hasn’t stopped them from being one of the most creative acts of the past six years. They’ve spawned four albums and a couple EP’s in that time frame – so they’ve certainly done their part to stay in the public eye and flesh out both a developing sound and discography over a short period.
They also, for the most part, march to the tune of their own drum. This can be either a profound series of revelations or a confounding juxtaposition of principles. One thing they seldom do is anything the same way twice.
When the world was introduced to this band on 2007’s Robbers and Cowards you had a couple of bonafide quirky singles on an album that was all over the place. You could see a band that was trying to do something different in the landscape while boasting its influences from the top of its lungs. 2009’s Loyalty to Loyalty saw the band continue to build off the confidence and success of their first release. It was a bit more focused, but still pretty quirky at times. 2011’s Mine is Yours saw them work with acclaimed producer Jacguire King (Kings of Leon) and this pairing offered slick production and a true showcase for Nathan Willett’s songwriting and voice. It was also their most commercial-sounding release to date.
Not that there was anything wrong with that, but the band decided to hunker down with new guitarist Dann Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) and elected to have him share production duties with Lars Stalfors (Mars Volta, Matt & Kim). Apparently the combined elements of adding Gallucci, the previous work with King and the bands confidence in itself were enough to produce Dear Ms. Lonelyhearts. The fruits of both this union and the labor exerted is an album that most closely resembles the promise of Robbers with the maturity of Mine is Yours.
Album opener ‘Miracle Mile,’ is an exuberant lyrical walk along the road to redemption. Upon the first four or five listens this obvious choice of a first single and ‘Jailbirds’ were the only tunes I could groove into like a comfortable pair of gloves. This album took time for me. I needed to let it grow in my mind like a spring flower. When it did, it’s potential fully realized itself within my mind.
Nathan Willett’s lyricism at times is confounding, but by and large – it’s pretty heady stuff of an introspective mind. Closing track ‘Bitter Poem,’ is a pretty much the kind of poem or lyrical set of phrase I’ve dreamed of turning when writing off an ex. I love the themes he works into his lyrics. These albums are like books and the songs are chapters. ‘Lost that Easy,’ is the story of a restless man with a fighting spirit. Both ‘Lost That Easy,’ and ‘Loner Phase,’ play with keyboards and electronic sounds – something the band really hadn’t experimented with up to this point.
Perhaps Gallucci’s time spent in Modest Mouse eased this transition because ‘Bottled Affection,’ is something that feels ripped directly from his former outfit’s pages. The track is summarized by these lyrics:
I’m not the same kid, I grew up
Didn’t I? Or did I get stuck?
You get older, it gets worse
You be the good one that gives it up first
Or the bad one that never gets hurt
‘Jailbirds,’ is an early morning soliloquy that passionately examines inner reflection of the world at large and how we internalize our struggles and our place within that world. ‘Water and Power,’ asks us to snap out of it. To accept what is, to process it, to fight, to move on.
The lynch-pin of the album, a track called “Tuxedos,” is elegantly typical Cold War Kids in their element. A jazzy, sparse percussion providing the backdrop for a bluesy guitar and piano line. Willett musing about crashing a wedding ‘Cause tuxedos don’t discriminate/A perfect disguise/so be cool/and fill up your plate.’
This is easily one of the most exciting bands in music right now. If you were a fan of their previous work, I can guarantee by the end of that fifth listen, you’ll be hooked all over again. For fans of music looking for something new, I highly recommend checking this one out, but also exploring Mine is Yours.
In a world where time seems to be continually fading, the Cold War Kids keep gaining…