By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
At 11 years since their 2006 debut LP, “Robbers & Cowardsm” Long Beach indie rock group Cold War Kids have numerous records and tours under their wing. Known for infused blues with pop characteristics, they have developed success nationwide. Their new sixth record, `LA DIVINE,” offers a dose of experimentation, and though it might not be for everyone, it’s simply fun.
A pounding piano riff opens “Love Is Mystical.” Frontman and keyboardist Nathan Willett begins to sing about the qualities love holds, as drummer Joe Plummer pounds away at his set, along with a catchy tambourine. Between the added layers of organs and strong bass, this track is energetic and an ingenious way to introduce listeners to what is in store.
“Restless” creates a spacious atmosphere, with sparse piano chords and an unconventional percussion introduction. “It seems like anywhere you are seems like a better place to be,” Willett sings with a register almost resonating with Robert Smith of The Cure. The vibes are smooth, and Plummer shines yet again, with his minimalistic approach to his drumkit. Plummer’s almost trap style on this track complements the cloudy nature of this track.
“So Tied Up,” kicks in with Willett sounding like Adele’s famous tone and even with instrumentation reminiscent of “Rolling In the Deep.” Though it may feel a little too familiar, this track holds it own with the chorus’ infectious back-up melodies and yet again, Plummer’s driving rhythms.
Revisiting the use of upbeat writing, Bassist Matt Maust shines on “Ordinary Idols,” delivering a groove so funky that it would please Prince. “I spiral down again,” Willett belts out over the pounding drum and bass duo, before the group crashes into a thunderous chorus. Willett shows listeners his high, and rather impressive falsetto range over the track’s bridge.
Closer “Free To Breathe” because with a light synth pad chord progression and Willett singing softly to listers, assuring them that “everything will be alright.” Absent of bass and drums, light electric guitar strums and heavier use of airy keys do make an appearance throughout the track but all ends abruptly. The record soon resolves into to a mellow conclusion.
Cold War Kids have matured and refined their sound with their sixth album. From a technical standpoint, the production and songwriting is proficient. The potentially largest downside to more recent fans is that “LA DIVINE” is less rock-centric than the group’s two previous albums. Former guitarist Dann Gallucci brought grit to both 2013’s “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” and 2014’s “Hold My Home.” His absence from the band is noticeable, as the band has clearly pushed toward a more piano and vocal-driven style. On the other hand, the stylistic shift should please long time fans of the band.
“LA DIVINE” is a crafty endeavor by Cold War Kids. However, the rock qualities have largely been replaced with aspects of pop songwriting we are all familiar with. Though trading in guitar solos in favor of piano lines, the band proves they can write poppier numbers better most notable pop artists. Cold War Kids are not afraid to make adjustments, all while keeping their signature bluesy nature. One thing is for sure, these musicians in their thirties can bring the heat like they’re teens again.