Cold War Kids released their new album LA Divine April 7, 2017. The songs are chaotic as always, but they are structured to fit in as much chaos as possible. Cold War Kids tended to have chaotic songs in the past with random piano playing and unexpected drum solos, like in Hang Me Up to Dry. The song First, which made them popular is extremely structured in contrast. They were able to combine First’s structure and their chaotic nature making this undoubtedly their best work yet, but I was honestly extremely anxious and on edge for this record. After seeing them live last summer, I want this band to succeed, they performed in a way that showed they loved what they were doing with every ounce of their being. But they had some barriers to conquer with this album.
This is the first album they created while being widely known throughout the United States after First brought them into the spotlight in 2014. While they had a few songs on prior albums that climbed the charts pretty high, alternative music fans were the only ones that seemed to notice. When a band has a big single or album that puts them on the map, things tend to go wrong. They release an album with each song sounding like that single or top song. It would be like making a fourth Iron Man movie. They replicated the first movie’s storyline so many times they might as well make it an even number.
Following the modern process of replicating past songs to play it safe is not the only thing that made me anxious. Cold War Kids have the tendency of being a “Single” band. They create an album with one or two great songs and then the rest is filler. This may be okay in the age of singles, but it displays the depth of the band. Buying their albums in the past has been a mediocre experience, resulting in a background cd that rarely gets played.
If LA Divine is their best work yet, why harp on their failures and possible downfalls before talking about the album? Because they were able to overcome these factors and finally produce a well-rounded award winning album, while still sticking to their roots. There are some background songs, but they are great background songs, that do not take up the whole album (I’m sure some fans love their songs I deem to be background music).
After Love is Mystical comes Can We Hang On, which is a song revolving around mistakes and being humbled, yet has a positive outlook on the future. So Tied Up features up and coming artist Bishop Briggs and there is a beautiful chemistry between the bands calling out for another collaboration. Restless, the longest song on the album made me grow restless and fits into the good background music.
The album is a tribute to their home in LA, but the LA Divine isn’t just a title. One audio short titled Wilshire Protest is a stream of thought clip describing what is going through a person’s mind as they participate in a protest in LA against the election of President Trump. Another audio short titled LA River has a psychedelic sound of a record being played too slowly. These audio shorts go back to when there was an expectation the whole album would be purchased. Their songs that are almost under a minute break up the album nicely, displays an awareness of the present state of the United States and ensure you are listening.
One song that stands out above the rest is Free to Breathe. This song shows the full bold melancholy heart that can sometimes be heard in their other songs. If the lyrics of First made a tear trickle down your eye when it made you think of past relationships, then Free to Breathe will work its way into your mind and bones until it finds a memory your tear ducts can’t refuse. This song is placed methodically at the end of the album so you are left with a silence that seems loud.
The audio files are being blocked from YouTube, so you have to listen to them on Spotify or purchase the album. Just another reason this album is perfect to listen to through and through.
-Wesley A. Gehman