The Kids Grow Up

Cold War Kids’ frontman Nathan Willett recounts the band’s evolution of sound, fully recognizable in the latest album.

Shannon Ryan

What: Cold War Kids

When: 8 p.m., Friday

Where: First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $20 in advance, $22 at the door; SOLD OUT

Age: 18+


The Cold War Kids have been making waves on the web since their inception in 2004, owing their ease of emergence into the indie music scene to a handful of music bloggers. Nearly a decade later, and the modest foursome of Cali guys are not only food for the indie fans, but they’re a palatable snack for mainstream music lovers as well.

With a more mature sound and an ever-evolving musical palette, the boys released their fourth studio album, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” at a time of career crossroads for the Long Beach quartet. Their early industry buzz gathered speed in the hipster blogosphere with the soulful, bluesy, post-punk guitar and drum sounds of their first two albums, “Robbers & Cowards” and “Loyalty To Loyalty.” But a noticeable shift in the band’s sound appeared to rile critics and part of the band’s fan base in 2011’s “Mine is Yours.”

There’s a skewed public perception of how to define the band’s sound, evident in “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” a product of the grassroots aesthetic of raw and minimalist indie-rock mixed with modernized synthetics that approach arena rock territory.

“We pulled sounds from seemingly kind of all over the place, which was different and a little uncomfortable at times, but something we needed to do,” lead vocalist Nathan Willett said.

This LP marks a couple of firsts for the band. It’s the first of theirs to ditch analog in favor of recording completely digital, and it’s the first album to feature Dann Gallucci, former Modest Mouse axman, in replacement of Jonathan Russell on guitar.

These new changes are ostensible attempts the Kids have made to grow out of the Cold War era and into the War on Terror and continue to woo audiences with something other than the band’s trademark bluesy-rock guitar chords.

“I feel like we were really able to break into some new things,” said Willett. “Just as a whole record, pound for pound, it’s more interesting than anything we’ve ever done.”

Tracks like “Loner Phase” and “Bottled Affection” titillate this jaunt into unfamiliar sounds for the band. The former experiments with a dance beat repetition redolent to Swedish house music, while the latter begins as another dip into the electronica pool before adding Willett’s soaring falsetto in a chorus fine for repeat.

More unconventional than anything the Cold War Kids have done to date, the new album is a collection of songs representing the band’s attempt to sonically reach new heights while still stomping over old ground. Neither a hardened appeasement to the tastes of their original fans, nor a sell-out compilation of tracks deemed radio-worthy, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” drops at a critical point in terms of measuring the band’s fan base.

“That’s what’s fun about it, you make the record, and you don’t really know which way it’s going to lean,” Willett said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The Cold War Kids will attempt to knock the indie-socks off the Mainroom during a sold-out performance Friday night. How their latest full-length is received will be up to the crowd, a superficial mix of mustaches and mousse.