Review by Liz Pena
Cold War Kids have delivered a broad social awareness and a deep personal honesty on their new record LA Divine. The album is a combination of pained ballads, experimental weirdness, and motivated anthems. Through this, they create a successful balance between political commentary and internal monologue. This music is human and real and sure to thrive in front of audiences.
Cold War Kids have always relied on a combination of brassy, slurred crooning and emotional falsetto on their vocals and for the majority of this album, they maintain that sound. Group vocals, energetic doo-wops, and wandering ooh-oohs are added throughout to create different effects. On “Free to Breathe,” the vocals are smooth, clean, and something we really have not heard much of from the band in the past. This track closes the record like an enchanted disappearing act. It contrasts these smooth, clean vocals and simple instrumentation with an almost feminine falsetto, perhaps the hauntings of lost love.
While one through line of the record is filled with longing and romance, there is also a relevant socio-political side to LA Divine. This is embraced in a subtle way on motivated anthems like “Can We Hang On” and “Ordinary Idols” but it is most clear on the tongue in cheek, experimental “Wilshire Protest.” The track is primarily spoken word – sarcastic, freeform poetry mocking the pseudo-enlightened. The statement is aware and direct, but not overt. They embrace the challenge of finding a place for meaning and intellect in our world in a interestingly punk way.
Experimental tracks are a significant part of the record as it carries on. “Part of the Night” yoyos pitch and emotion while “La River” spins fuzzy distorted noise backwards. “Cameras Always On” is a short, dreamy, vintage piano short that shows a real artistic vision in the flow of the record.
Weird works, but there is also some highly appealing pop hits on LA Divine. “Love is Mystical” opens the record with scream from the rooftops, impassioned romance and instinctive invincibility. They cry out about the “power to believe again,” something we all crave sometimes. “Restless” has a radio-friendly sound similar to hits by artists such as Sam Smith. There is a structured but anguished feel to this slow dance of a song that will reverberate with listeners.
Overall, the record has the most youthful, genuine sound we have heard from Cold War Kids and it has two different types of appeal. There is the lighters-in-the-air, sing-a-long energy that will make this record work on tour but also a developed and forward-thinking sound that creates radio magic. Hopefully this is a new direction for the band as they move into future production. Check out the record and let us know what YOU think.