For those expecting a continuation of the blues-inspired, natural Cold War Kids of Robbers & Cowards, prepare for a marginal letdown — the band has changed. The characteristic rough edge, which had previously drawn comparisons to the likes of Spoon and the White Stripes, has been blunted and, in some songs, removed entirely. In its place, there is a feel of post-production studio refinement, of a band that has worked and reworked each song until it has either been polished to a careful sheen or has become overwrought. Cold War Kids, in a sporadically fruitful pursuit of precision, stripped away the subtle imperfections that made the music engaging.

Cold War Kids

“Mine Is Yours”
Downtown

The saving grace for Mine Is Yours — as has always been the case with Cold War Kids — is the voice of lead singer Nathan Willett. Though the instrumentation may be stale at times, those soulful vocals can add just enough variability to make a track worth listening to. For instance, without Willet’s voice, “Finally Begin” would sound like something picked up from the floor of the Kings of Leon recording studio. Even with unoriginal lyrics (“Finally open my arms wide / Finally I let you inside”), Willett manages to unleash astonishing prowess, creating a viable hit single.

The album starts out strong with the title track and picks up steam with three more solid songs. It begins to falter only when it reaches “Out Of The Wilderness,” a building piece that eventually comes out flat. At this point, Mine Is Yours slumps and never really recovers. Later in the album, “Sensitive Kid” relies a little too heavily on Willett to stand on its own. Though he skillfully dictates the dysfunction of a teen with a single mom, the song is too downcast to sound vexed, and awkwardly resides somewhere in between.

Luckily, the first half of Mine Is Yours provides the listener with glimpses of the rocking-yet-restrained Cold War Kids of old. “Louder Than Ever” combines crashing cymbals and subtle guitar to produce what is clearly the best track on the album. Willett provides poetic verse (“All my windows were barred, the sun made stripes of shade”) and a chorus that can leave listeners humming it well after the song has ended. Immediately following it is “Royal Blue,” an impassioned composition with an irresistibly upbeat mood. Though the track has a new sound, it works, and it shows what Mine Is Yours could have been.

Cold War Kids’s latest effort is a risky departure from what gave it a small amount of success in the past. Nathan Willett continues to shine as a singer, and his foray into soul only adds to the depth of his ability. However, Mine Is Yours is top-heavy, leaving the album fairly disjointed. The noteworthy tracks are strong enough to warrant a second or third listen, and even though some songs are skippable, the first-half hits manage to outweigh the busts. Cold War Kids has shown that it has the ability to produce creative and talented music, but instead of completely revamping its previous style, the band must find the middle ground between edgy melodies and carefully manipulated music.

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