The second track on Mine Is Yours, the latest album from Cold War Kids, is entitled “Louder Than Ever.” That could be the mission statement for the whole album, whose anthemic songs are filled with sweeping riffs demanding to be played at full volume. However, lest they grow stale, Cold War Kids intersperse their louder songs with pockets of calm melody. By manipulating frontman Nathan Willett’s impressive tenor vocals and often stripping the music down to just one or two instruments, Mine is Yours beautifully displays the band’s obvious talent for songwriting and cohesion.
The band returned to their roots to write Mine Is Yours, moving to Whittier, California, to record their first demos in 2004. In addition to fueling their emotion-driven lyrics and the record’s overall ethos of comfort and familiarity, the hometown atmosphere is clear in the album’s subject matter. “Sensitive Kid” chronicles the story of an isolated child with a lonely home life and is driven by a pulsing back beat and faint yells throughout the song. Video game sounds creep their way into the instrumentation, reinforcing the childhood atmosphere while adding depth to the sound. In keeping with the album’s exploration of growing up, in “Louder Than Ever,” Willett uses an innocuous childhood board game—“that mousetrap game”—to create an unusual image of an uphill battle with a loved one. The universality of this childhood memory makes it keenly relatable.
Although they are frequently called an indie band, for this record, Cold War Kids run with the funk influence that we’ve heard hints of on their previous albums. “Royal Blue” has a bluesy sound reminiscent of Hendrix and introduces retro riffs and drop beats that they experiment with later.
Willett’s voice showcases his ability to encapsulate the soulful wails of a heart in pain, but at times he almost gives too much. Hearing echoes after almost every lyric on “Royal Blue” gets a little tedious. But the band’s tight, in-sync style salvages the song and keeps Willett’s wailing in check.
The album livens up again with its closer, “Flying Upside Down,” a feel- good story about young love. The tug of war between youthful hearts, coupled with larger-than-life synths reminiscent of Journey, leaves your ears wanting to picture the story again and again. With synesthesia like that, Cold War Kids presents an addicting collection that makes even the most independent college student want to go home.
Voice’s Choices: “Louder Than Ever,” “Royal Blue,” “Sensitive Kid”