After 2011’s flub with “Mine Is Yours” by Cold War Kids, most of us forgot why we ever loved them. “Mine Is Yours” was the equivalent of the worst kind of musical conformity: After Cold War Kids was hit by a smidgen of criticism, they revamped its style for the album.
Which led to more criticism.
What had made Cold War Kids great in its 2005 debut was its total weirdness. None of the beats were things you would ever put together. Nathan Willett’s vocals were almost androgynous and totally odd and nothing seemed to fit, yet it did. They pushed the edgy expanse of indie music.
That’s why we loved Cold War Kids – they were weird.
Tuesday’s release, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” brought back all those qualities along with more banging pianos and prominent drums. The most recent album revives the ambient quality the earlier albums had.
Cold War Kids’ most recent album pushes the bluesy aspect of its music forward and downplays the present, but less noticeable pop characteristics.
The album opens with “Miracle Mile” and a frantic piano opener. Willett’s familiar vocals cry out, but the prominent drums don’t come in until later in the song. Even then the pop-synth beat was what I heard most.
Both “Loner Phase” and “Fear & Trembling” were made up of a lot of percussion and drumming. While “Loner Phase” had a noticeable pairing with a synth-y beat, “Fear & Trembling” seemed more instrumental-based. The latter began with a deep, rolling drum and quieter vocals. Willett usually has a near frantic tone to his voice, but with “Fear & Trembling,” his singing was more toned-down, which focused the track on the percussion.
The most accurate description of “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” is guttural-pop blues. The album is like getting a painfully intimate glimpse at someone’s personal life. Sometimes it’s off-putting. Other times it’s effective.
“Bitter Poem” actually sounds bitter. The track is slowed-down, and the vocals sound like a plea more than true singing. Much like “Lost That Easy,” the final track is like a private moment, as if the listeners are being let in on an all-too-personal time.
Cold War Kids has made a comeback. “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” has the peculiar feel of the band’s debut. At times the synth beat was overdone though, and the percussion that the band has become known for was less prominent than it should have been.