Much unlike their namesake, California’s Cold War Kids are an example of having a goal and setting out to get ‘er done. Following the departure of original guitarist Jonnie Russell and addition of former Modest Mouse member Dann Galluci, the band, who, as they put it, “strive to make albums about the human experience” are back with a fourth studio album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts that does just that.
A concept album inspired by Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is certainly roller-coaster — ups and downs that explore various emotions in a way that is quite indicative of the human experience, indeed. It opens with the explosive single, “Miracle Mile,” which has a racing desperation that very nicely compliments the urgent, repeated cry to “come up for air, come up for air.” This then settles into a generally more mellow sound. New recruit Galluci, who co-produced the album with Lars Stalfors, describes it as “spacious and audacious” which is pretty accurate. Lead singer Nathan Willet’s vocal performance is characterized by drawn out wails, that deliver passion and drama to each song. This is a trend held constant throughout the album, although instrumentals provide enough variation to keep it from being repetitive. “Bottled Affection,” in particular, has an interesting and attention-grabbing opening that features Willet singing over a very sparse percussion-based instrumental track.
That being said, the album does get a bit slow at times. The burst of energy from “Miracle Mile” makes the slowdown that characterizes the rest of the album even more marked — we keep waiting for it to pick back up again but it never does. Its passionate, yes, and emotional, sure, but it doesn’t have quite the same draw. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that Cold War Kids know what they’re doing. They’ve set out to make an album about the human experience, to create factual feelings from a work of fiction, and for all intents and purposes, they appear to have accomplished their goal. It’s certainly not perfect but that, if anything, just adds to the authenticity of it all.