Review Summary: I can't hear you, did you say that you're happy for me?
When a band announces that they are planning on recording and releasing a concept album, they are often met with skepticism and premature declarations of failure for their upcoming album. Aside from an unwritten group of ‘elite bands’, something in this day and age seems to reject bands continuing to release concept albums, as nearly every band with some sort of musical merit has delved into that area in the past. No longer is a concept album a ‘new’ or ‘fresh’ notion. For California natives Cold War Kids this fact could not have been lost on them, yet they decided to forge ahead and create a concept album in vein of the Nathanael West novel Miss Lonelyhearts and despite all odds, Cold War Kids mange to create an interesting and, more importantly, cohesive record with Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
Album opener and lead single Miracle Mile
starts the album off sounding nearly identical to previous releases, acting as homage to their past works. The song has everything that has bolstered Cold War Kids’ success so far in their career; bright and bubbly piano throughout, coupled with driving drums and soaring vocals. Aside from this opening track and perhaps the track Jailbirds
, not much of the record is easily recognizable as a Cold War Kids record though, as evident by the paradigm shift in subsequent songs.
As the record progresses, Cold War Kids manage to perfectly encapsulate the depressingly desperate mood present in the novel that inspired this release, as most songs employ spacy and atmospheric sections. Lyrically the songs often display this sense of longing and loneliness. Tuxedoes
, one of the strongest tracks in terms of advancing the concept, is but one example of this melancholy lyricism. “I love to be a stranger at a wedding. Cause tuxedos don't discriminate. A perfect disguise so be cool and fill up your pain.” Leader singer Nathan Willett has been producing high quality music through Cold War Kids for the better part of the last decade, and his experience truly shines through on their fourth full length record. The entire album is full of extended instrumental sections and prominent use of brass or woodwind instrumentation. Songs such as Fear and Trembling
or the early mentioned Jailbirds
best exemplify the latter, as the songs implement perfectly placed instrumentation. Elsewhere on the album it is nearly impossible to miss the innate groovy-ness present. The record furthers the bands penchant for blues and groove, as nearly every song will have listeners either tapping their feet or nodding their heads.
But as was earlier alluded to, concept albums are not as groundbreaking or innovative as they used to be. And quite frankly, neither is the indie genre. While Cold War Kids managed to release a concept album that does not suffer from being overly pretentious like many similar albums, this record is nothing novel. Although the fact that Cold War Kids is not trying to rewrite music or push the boundaries of their genre is not something that warrants immediate disapproval, it is nevertheless unavoidable for a band that fails to push themselves to avoid a slow descent into mediocrity.
While this album has its definite highs and lows, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
is without a doubt a great record. Although the band does not try to move outside the confines of their respective genre, it is apparent that there are minor changes and adaptations that are taking place. Cold War Kids is seemingly not a band that is choosing to become stagnant, something that bodes well for a band that has yet to peak. Given time Cold War Kids is sure to release an album worthy of illustrious and unanimous praise. Although Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
is not this album, Cold War Kids is inching ever so slowly towards their former prominence, and releasing a splendid album in the process.