New album brings sonic lyrics and new sound

Cold War Kids, the indie-rock quartet from Long Beach, Calif., has made some artistic strides, both sonically and lyrically, on its new album Mine Is Yours.

Working with producer Jacquire King — who worked on albums from with artists such as Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse and Lissie — Cold War Kids has extended the reaches of its sound.

Cold War Kids | Creative Commons

With Mine Is Yours, listeners will find that Cold War Kids still maintain some of the minimalist, abrasive edge that made Robbers & Cowards and Loyalty to Loyalty appealing records, with songs like “Louder Than Ever” and “Royal Blue” standing out.

“Louder Than Ever” engenders audio nostalgia that evinces the presence of old Cold War Kids quirks.

Front man Nathan Willett’s passionate voice scorches the ears, accompanied by the incessant clinking of drummer Matt Aveiro’s cymbals and the dissonant, chattery dialogue of Jonnie Russell’s guitar and Matt Maust’s bass.

Minimalism is still present in the quartet’s style, as heard on “Royal Blue”, a stirring song that starts with the simple beat of quasi-bongo drums.

The drums gradually evolve while being joined by simple, lilting guitar riffs and bass lines that, in conjunction and repetition, produce a mesmerizing effect.

Other songs on the album, like “Mine Is Yours,” “Bulldozer” and “Finally Begin” discernibly contain external influences and sonic change.

In some cases, change can be a good thing and can produce tasteful improvements like in “Mine Is Yours,” the first track on the album, and “Bulldozer.”

The opening song launches with a peculiar synthesizer exploiting the Doppler effect and a gentle, vocal chant not characteristic of Cold War Kids’ sound.

Despite the initial oddities, Willett’s later vocals retain the unique design of Cold War Kids, and the other musicians complement each other with nonchalant harmonies that envelope the listener.

“Bulldozer,” the longest song on the album, contains some unfamiliar instrumental effects as well as a new twang in Willett’s voice.

The new effects compliment the musicians nicely, however, showing off the virtuosity of Russell, Maust and Aveiro and revealing Willett’s versatility as a singer.

The stylistic tweaks present in “Mine Is Yours” and “Bulldozer” are bearable but in “Finally Begin,” the listener can blatantly hear gaudy effects on the instruments that make the musicians mesh together.

Although a cool, artistic flourish, this touch strays away from the corrosive qualities of previous Cold War Kids songs like “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry.”

Aside from the obvious departures in sound, Willett has changed the band in a different, more ambitious way.

Past Cold War Kids songs, especially from Loyalty to Loyalty, contained made-up characters who possessed sinister flaws or underwent personal revelations, but songs on Mine Is Yours divulge details about Willett, ranging from interpersonal relationships to home-life.

“Sensitive Kid” is a revealing song about Willett’s growing pains.

The front man sings poignant lines like I tried being sweet / it’s buried deep in me and You climb it up, or you cut it down / This is your family tree, alternating between an aching singing-voice and rhythmic, expressive sighs.

Similar sentiments of disclosure can be heard in “Broken Open,” where Willett sings I have been broken open / Was a perfect gentleman / Now I’m smashing champagne, tying cans / Feel like celebrating.

“Broken Open” is a more uplifting piece than “Sensitive Kid” and some of the other tracks on the album, but it is nonetheless a song that pays tribute to a complex episode in Willett’s life.

Although some of the qualitative changes on Mine Is Yours err on the side of distasteful and prove uncharacteristic of Cold War Kids’ aura, very few of the album’s songs are inherently tainted and still have redeeming qualities.

Lyrically speaking, the quartet’s new album triumphs over previous records, as it zealously and boldly conquers new territory.

Mine Is Yours proves to be an album that portrays growth in self-revelation and musical experimentation.