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Joshua X

CD of The Week

Week of 12/16/19

    Cold War Kids - New Age Norms 1 (AWAL)

    Alt-rock veterans of over a decade, Cold War Kids decided to try something new when it came to putting out their seventh record New Age Norms. Split into three mini-albums, the 8-song first installment arrived a few weeks back and finds the group split as well, moving back and forth between their well-honed rock sound and some much slicker pop. As you'd expect, this brings some mixed results.

    Lead single "Complainer" finds singer Nathan Willett slipping in and out of his falsetto over a soulful rock groove, bringing in a choir of kids on the choruses. The song tackles living your life through a social media filter vs. getting up and making a difference, without falling into Jack White-style crankiness.

    "Fine Fine Fine" rides in on a rollicking Tin Pan alley piano that would be right at home on a Ben Folds album and never lets up as one of their most high-energy tunes in a while, though the theme of the tune is actually about growing up and calming down.

    "Waiting for Your Love" heads into Hall & Oates '80s production territory, but Willett's voice in the chorus could easily and unfortunately be mistaken for Maroon 5's Adam Levine. The catchy "Dirt in My Eyes" also deploys Willett's Levine-style falsetto in the choruses of this bitter breakup song, calling his duplicitous ex "the talented Ms. Ripley." "4th of July" also veers into this extra slick pop territory, but with a deeper heaviness and emotion that those other tracks.

    I've always been a fan of Willett's vocal style, but the production and melodies push things a bit too Top 40 for my tastes on some of New Age Norms 1. Presumably parts two and three will be arriving throughout 2020, giving us the full picture of this new age of their career.

    Cold War Kids return to Philadelphia at The Fillmore on January 31st.

    Review by Joey O.

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