Cold War Kids

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

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After spending a couple of albums teetering on the edge between too quirky and too bland, Cold War Kids regain their balance on Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. This is their first album to feature former Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils guitarist Dann Gallucci, and it's hard not to see his addition as one of the main reasons the band sounds more focused and confident than it has in some time (especially since he co-produced the album). "Miracle Mile" kicks things off with one of Cold War Kids' boldest statements of purpose: as it unfolds from pounding pianos into a song about coming back strong, it's clear that they've reined in both the slickness of Mine Is Yours and the theatrics of Loyalty to Loyalty. Throughout much of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, it feels like the band has something to prove, particularly on "Lost That Easy," a defiant anthem about never giving up. Likewise, "Jailbirds" and the brassy "Water & Power" nail the big, lighters-aloft sound Cold War Kids strove for on Mine Is Yours much more naturally. They also play to their strength with ballads on "Fear & Trembling," which stays on the right side of the fine line between dramatic and histrionic, and "Tuxedos," a meditation on crashing weddings that rivals their early work in its soulful simplicity. The band even manages to play with some new sounds in a way that doesn't sound like dabbling on "Loner Phase" and "Bottled Affection," where keyboards and drum machines add a little adventure without detracting from Nathan Willett's bluesy yelp. Still, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is more about what the band does best rather than breaking new ground, and the result is some of Cold War Kids' most promising and satisfying music since their debut.

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