Review Summary: Don't forget to write The Edge a thank you note!
California quartet, Cold War Kids, exploded onto the scene in 2006 with their debut Robbers and Cowards. The album managed to stand out, even amidst A new Black Keys album, Magic Potion, and a Grammy nomination for The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan. But where The Stripes and The Keys focus on the minimalistic necessity in a band comprised of only two, The Cold War Kids reveled in full bodied sounds, fleshed out by staccato piano and halting, but groovy bass lines. With blustery, soulful vocals, and a raw, untamed sound, the band’s unique style garnered them a strong following and critical acclamation. Despite all of the, assuredly deserved, praise the band received, I was never able to progress past the fantastic single “Hang Me Out to Dry,” off of their first album. Accessibility was obviously not a priority, they were catering to a niche and that particular niche loved them. Two albums and five years later, my issues with the band have been addressed. enter: Mine Is Yours.
The new album sees the band teaming with esteemed producer Jaquire King (Modest Mouse, Mute Math), who smooths out much of the rough-edged production they had become known for in previous records, in favor of a refined, effects driven sound, reminiscent of The Kings of Leon’s most recent album, another record produced by King. However, Mine is Yours somehow remains a strong effort from the band, despite this seeming loss of originality.
Nathan Willett’s vocals remains the most distinct part of the band. His voice has never sounded better than it does on Mine is Yours. While retaining the raw intensity of the vocals on Robbers and Cowards and Loyalty to Loyalty, Willett infuses melody with his blues prowess to fantastic effect. The song “Bulldozer,” in particular, showcases his new vocal chops, with soaring verses leading up to anthamatic chorus, it dares you not to sing along. Lyrically, however, the band falters in the marvelous soul-swagger of previous records. Too often the lyrics tend towards cliche laments of relationship and love lost, in lieu of the more down to earth, every day relate-ability of past songs.
The topography of the rest of the album is comprised of an undulating mixture of highs and lows. Much of Mine is Yours sits comfortably situated slightly above sea level. However, there are fantastic moments of utter brilliance, towering in their granite majesty above the rest of the album, such as the U2-esque “Broken open,” and the bombastic “Finally Begin.”
Change is not always a bad thing, though diehard fans of a band’s signature sound may fervently disagree. Changes encourages risk-taking, exploration of new sounds, and, in the case of The Cold War Kids, a much needed deviation from the done-to-death sound of both their past efforts. Mine is Yours feels fresh, dispite wearing their influences on their sleeves. It may not be the best album the band has produced, but it is without a doubt the record new fans will gravitate towards.