★ ★ 1/2
Cold War Kids
Mine is Yours
The third studio album from the Cold War Kids, Mine is Yours, feels as though it's been a long time coming, but, in reality, their sophomore release Loyalty to Loyalty dropped roughly two years ago. While in their five years as a band the Cold War Kids (Matt Aveiro, Matt Maust, Jonnie Bo Russell, Nathan Willett) have managed to produce over 12 EPs and LPs, with Mine is Yours being their biggest departure from their original "Hang Me Up To Dry," jangling, funky, indie soul, rockish sound (that's a little hard to digest ... and replicate, evidently).
On their previous two albums, Cold War Kids sounded a bit more working-class than leisure-class. You would have been hard-pressed to come up with their native land by going purely on Robbers and Cowards, but now the Kids have developed a slightly lighter sound, echoing the ease of their hometown, Long Beach, Calif. On the opener and title track, we find the Kids a little lighter on the ears. Willett's sometimes-harsh vibrato has calmed to the purr of a kitten and smoothed out a little; and the typical beat-on-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink composition of the drums and guitars are mellowed out to a lulling, sweet tune. It could almost be an adult contemporary tune from the likes of The Script if you listen hard enough.
"Louder Than Ever" sounds like two different songs at times. The beginning is rushed while the chorus slows down in tempo and his words draw out longer than ever, followed by another hurried verse. Despite this, this has to be one of the better songs on the album. "Royal Blue" stands as a sort of anthem; a self-helping chant that's aimed at making you be a better person ... or believe you're going to try, at least, with lyrics like, "From now on fly as high as I want/From now on I'll show my weak spot." A couple of tracks later, the album flows into "Out of the Wilderness." Willett's vocals heighten and it becomes this over-reaching of excellence – trying to reach this larger-than-life operatic vocal range, as if picturing himself inside the Apollo attempting to "wow" the audience. It doesn't work.
"Sensitive Kid" talks of the narrator (Willett) whose mom is going out with his best friend's dad, as well as the general pains of divorce and moving. A typical story, but it's a little skewed by the title. He is, indeed, not a sensitive kid, as he was seeing red and he invited his friends over for a party. We're going through Willett's growing pains, as seen on much of the album with his self-realizations. It's a bit late for it, no? On their third release, I think we could all hope that they'd be beyond this self-reflective period, but it seems that they've swapped out their funky style as seen on their previous releases for this wishy-washy attempt at connecting with the listener on a deeper level.
The problem with much of Mine is Yours is that Willett's vocals stayed in one place while the rest of the band moved ahead. Willetts soulful, old-timey hipster affectation doesn't fit with some of the melodies chosen. The album sways between mid-90s folk rock and today, never really finding a home in any decade. — TREASURE GROH
Worth a listen: "Louder Than Ever" & "Skip the Charade"