Arts, Features

Review: Cold War Kids embraces pop with “New Age Norms 1”

With so many talented artists in the indie music scene, breaking through to mainstream audiences can be challenging. Cold War Kids have done just that — impressing indie and pop lovers worldwide with their raw, sultry beats and organic feel. 

Indie rock band Cold War Kids, shown performing at Coachella in 2011, released the first part of an upcoming trilogy and their seventh studio album, “New Age Norms 1,” on Friday. COURTESY OF FRED VON LOHMANN VIA FLICKR

The band crafted a new, more laid back persona with their 2017 album, “LA Divine.” As they further developed their sound, they introduced more electronic effects and more of an emphasis on harmonies in their music. This trend has continued in their latest album, “New Age Norms 1.”

This latest project is slated to be the first in a trilogy for Cold War Kids, who, according to a 2019 Billboard article, were inspired to create a collection of shorter, digestible projects by Kanye West’s busy summer in 2018 where he produced five albums, none surpassing eight songs in length. 

The new album is filled with synthesized horns and dual harmonies. Lead singer Nathan Willet’s vocals are clearer than ever and even outweigh the power of the band’s well-loved percussion,  still working behind the scenes and getting listeners on their feet.

The album’s opening track “Complainer” is a feisty tribute to the power of having initiative. Lyrics like, “You say you want to change this world/ well do you really believe in magic?” exemplify the band’s sassy confidence in asking for what they want.

This attitude, along with other powerful messages within the album, fires listeners up to be more confident and pushes long-time fans to be true to themselves.

“Fine Fine Fine” reminds people that growing up and out of the young, reckless stage of life is normal and showcases Willet’s impressive vocal range that was hidden in many of the band’s earlier projects.

The project’s next track “Waiting For Your Love” is a feel-good jam reminiscent of the ‘80s, complete with an upbeat drum feature and bright synthesizer chords. Willet’s high register is once again the star of the show and is supported by strong background harmonies.

“Dirt in my Eyes” addresses the painful facts of blind love and helps fans understand how to take control of one’s emotions in the midst of unhealthy relationships. Lyrics like “I know the game you’re playing, and this revenge is dangerous” show just how fun and grown-up their music is at the same time.

The album’s penultimate track, “Calm Your Nerves” emphasizes the power of looking past public facades and reflecting on personal relationships. Willet’s edged tone comes off as encouraging as he sings, “Oh-oh, oh-oh, I will be there to calm your nerves/ To fight this feeling/ Oh-oh, oh-oh, I will be there to say the words, ‘You are forgiven,’”

This mature and honest approach to emotions is paired with a seasoned musical style that is layered with the authentic identity that new fans have grown to love.

Cold War Kids closed part one of their trilogy with “Tricky Devils,” a sneaky tune complete with minor chords and low vocals to start. This final track is telling of the band’s new, contemporary sound and shows potential for even more growth in the second installment of the project.

The band may be veteran performers in the indie-rock market, but they are far from finished in telling their stories and sharing their talents. Cold War Kids’ latest, eight-song album is a colorful window into the band’s growth since their start as a low-tone indie ensemble. Long-time listeners will be wowed by the way their music has grown since their early years and adapted to ever-changing pop norms.

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