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Album Review: Cold War Kids - 'L.A. Divine'

April 7, 2017

 

"L.A. Divine" is an appropriate title for the album -- "L.A." for the band's origin, and "Divine" for the spiritual imagery that appears throughout the LP. 

 

Frontman Nathan Willet told NME that Francican monk, Richard Rohr, inspired him while writing the record. 

 

The record's lead single (and first track), "Love Is Mystical," talks about "supernatural love," according to Willet. 

 

Even the singer's vocals are reminiscent of gospel on a song, which means much more, could be misinterpreted as a generic love song, if not listened to closely. 

 

Willet's soaring vocals

out-Hozier Hozier, and proves to be one of the strongest singles the band has released.

 

Bishop Briggs is featured on "So Tied Up." The 24-year-old British singer/songwriter adds to the song what Merry Clayton did on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." Though Willet handles lead vocals throughout the song, Briggs is just as integral as a backing vocalist.

 

The Black Keys-esque, "Open Up The Heavens," continues the theme of questioning. Another garage rocker, "Luck Down," is almost a reprise to some of the bands older tracks like 2006's "Hang Me Out To Dry." 

 

These songs help to make the record a good representation of all the band's phases, pairing them with some of the more radio-friendly cuts the band has been more recently known for.

 

The record hits a brief lull during tracks four and five. The light "Restless" briefly stops the momentum of the album, and the placement -- and even the inclusion -- of experimental interlude, "LA River," is questionable. 

 

The second interlude is more compelling. "Wilshire Protest," featuring some of the same retro-sounding guitars as "LA River," is essentially a slam poem that sums up "L.A. Divine." The final interlude, "The Camera's Always On," which follows "Ordinary idols," feels like a good fit. 

 

The record closes with the most blatant questioning on "Free To Breathe," even calling out God for not revealing all the answers. I found this lyric somewhat jarring, as someone coming from a Christian perspective, but am grateful Willet is open and honest about his feelings, and is willing to add his voice to the conversation.

 

The track says a lot. It almost feels as though the entire album was setting up for it.

 

 "Free To Breathe" is a call for peace, not completely unlike John Lennon's "Imagine." 

 

Ultimately, Cold War Kids is a band that's not afraid to say something and think deeper, even if they don't have all the answers. 

 

Their latest, "L.A. Divine," is proof of that.

 

 

 

 

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