Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Nov 28th, 2014

Cold War Kids: Hold My Home

CWKCold War Kids
Hold My Home
(Downtown Records)

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It’s not often that I fault an album for its production, but as someone who feel for Cold War Kids’ intensity with their debut, Robbers & Cowards, I can’t help but lead with this complaint. Hold My Home is sleek and pushes the instrumentation forward in the mix, occasionally at the price of Nathan Willett’s distinctive shout-sing vocals. There are moments during Hold My Home—particularly on the attempted anthem “First” and “Hotels Anywhere”—when I actually checked my headphones to make sure the wires weren’t frayed.

Beyond this strange choice, Hold My Home is a middling record, neither great nor bad. A few guest vocals, such as some plaintive female accompaniment on “Hear My Baby Call,” fall short because they really add nothing when Willett’s voice is already so distinctive and powerful. “Go Quietly” tries to be a delicate, inspirational track with some falsetto thrown in for good measure, but it misses the mark.

Still, there are signs that Cold War Kids are a good—potentially great—band. “Hot Coals” has an emotional vulnerability that would be right at home on an acoustic album, but with the band’s intensity, it sounds almost angry and betrayed. “Drive Desperate” has shades of a big, dirty guitar song, even if that dissipates toward the end. “Flower Drum Song” highlights each instrument individually, something that should have been done more on other tracks rather than trying to be everything at once. For me, the highlight is “Harold Bloom,” a nod to literary great James Joyce. If more time had been spent on writing like this, this might be a far different record.

It’s a shame Hold My Home has shunned the indie guitar rock sound for something a little tidier and more conventional. This is a band meant to be loud and exploring themes other than love, and that awkwardness shows in parts. Still, I’ll give the band another shot. There’s potential here. You just have to be patient. And don’t wear headphones.

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Cold War Kids: Hold My Home