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Cold War Kids - Hold My Home

"Hold My Home"

Cold War Kids Hold My Home
10 March 2015, 11:30 Written by Ryan Thomas
Cold War Kids are experts at doing a lot with a little.

Whether by forging soulful pop from three-to-four-chord piano/guitar foundations, making the best of a lineup that consists of two founding members (Jonnie Russell was replaced by former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci in 2012, and drummer Matt Aveiro by Joe Plummer in 2013), or by singer Nathan Willett’s ability to wring buckets of emotion out of a simple refrain—CWK are pure and effective in their beautiful economy. Their latest and fifth studio album, entitled Hold My Home, shepherds proof.

Early fans of the band holding out for crooning cabaret blues ballads on broken Tin Pan Alley pianos won’t find what they’re looking for on this album—the one exception being “Harold Bloom,” which strips the 'Kids down to a lounge-y jazz keyboard and a tambourine, casting a spotlight on Willet’s trembling voice as he sings, “Don’t lift your heroes up so high that you can’t touch.”

The first two tracks are very obvious single candidates—the first of which, “All This Could Be Yours,” is an in-and-out, self-explanatory quickie driven by 4 piano chords and a chant-along chorus which consists of the song title. The second track, “First,” takes a strophic three-chord form and turns it into a slow-moving piano-pop anthem somewhere between any given fun. song and Daniel Powter’s “You Had a Bad Day.”

Immediately-accessible entries aside, Cold War Kids are a band of exploration and sonic fabric-testing, making the same four or so instruments do something different each time to produce different timbres and textures. Note the gain-heavy bass, airhorn guitars, and barking drumheads which give “Hold My Home” a primal, Bunnymen-like psychedelic intensity. Or the whispering synth strings and suppressed drum echoes that make “Nights & Weekends” open like the fog of a daydream or like a Samuel Becket play. “Hear My Baby” is a darkly-lit imaginarium of a brooding shadow puppetry, full of rich atmospherics, percussive guitar clicks, and even a damsel-in-distress—all of which evokes a Murder Ballads-era Nick Cave if he sang in a much much higher register.

While CWK may operate within a system of raw nerves, they are a deliberate band. When they choose to, Cold War Kids can make a memorable, heart-felt mark with just a few drops of ink—an impacting, artful spareness that suggests a group that would be very successful in advertising but thank god they aren’t. (Except, of course, for when some shite beer advert nabs one of their songs to make social dysfunction look appealing—but hey, a band has to get paid somehow…).

In spite of their sensible pop poignancy, full-on mainstream popularity somehow still seems to elude Cold War Kids, in a way that allows them to simultaneously retain the creative dignity of independent status and lose visionarily-unaligned band-members along the the way—all while avoiding the douchebaggery that comes with letting your songs appear on the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie soundtrack.

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