Even Cold War Kids’ vocalist Nathan Willett can admit that the band’s last release, 2011’s Mine Is Yours, was a letdown. “It was over-thought and over-produced,” the frontman recently admitted. For fans, clinging to Cold War Kids since their heavily hyped 2006 debut felt similar to refusing to bid a show like Weeds farewell; it had faltered since Nancy Botwin set fire to her little slice of suburbia, but inexplicably, you couldn’t help but stick around.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts fails to reach back far enough to the band’s less polished, indie blues-fueled Robbers & Cowards days, but at least integrates that sound with hints of the striving-for-stadiums pop-rock Mine Is Yours offered up. For the best combination of styles both old and new, see synth-meets-guitar dance track “Loner Phase”, or enjoy the undeniably catchy piano-drum combination on “Jailbirds”. These are the gems; unfortunately, the record snoozes toward the end, with Willett’s undeniable falsetto struggling to save the title track and album closer “Bitter Poem”.
Safety lies in the crisp urgency of crown jewel “Miracle Mile”, the album’s opener that, in Willett’s words, “captures all our strengths as a band” with its quick keys, layered vocals, and soaring “oohs”. The track was recorded after Cold War Kids thought they’d wrapped the record, along with the relaxed ballad “Tuxedos”, during sessions that “had a great vibe, perhaps because we were just friends hanging out and didn’t have the pressure.” It’s these serene moments that allow Dear Miss Lonelyhearts to mark a more self-aware Cold War Kids, one that knows where they’ve been and are steadily figuring out where they’re going.
Essential Tracks: “Miracle Mile”, “Loner Phase”