Cold War Kids | Robbers and Cowards (Downtown)

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Some of their music is reminiscent of the soundtrack from O Brother Where Art Thou?: there's a more rootsy substance lurking behind the Strokes-esque lyrics and Jeff Buckley-like wailings.


cd_cwkSometimes, extraordinary experiences accompany new artists. An up-and-coming band will emerge, and they will sound unlike anything else that has existed prior to them.

The Cold War Kids are not an example of one of the aforementioned. They sound sort of like other bands that have been around for years (especially Muse), with a slight, jagged raw edge to their music. The way that this four-piece from Fullerton, Calif., achieves this is by combining acoustic and electric instruments to their repertoire, and being especially picky in their percussion selections. This is why some of their music is reminiscent of the soundtrack from O Brother Where Art Thou?: there's a more rootsy substance lurking behind the Strokes-esque lyrics and Jeff Buckley-like wailings of lead singer and pianist Nathan Willett.

This band (composed of Willett, Matt Aveiro on drums, Matt Maust on bass, and Jonnie Russell on guitar) began its music-making days in southern California, recording demos in Los Angeles and soon after, signing to Monarchy Music, where debut EP Mulberry Street was created in spring of 2005. After touring for the next year with bands such as Tapes n' Tapes, Sound Team, Figurines, and Editors, the CWK performed at Lollapalooza and then later signed to Downtown Records, where their first full-length album was released in October. With rousing melodies and lyrics that ooze with truth and witticism, it's no wonder why bloggers all around the United States were creating such a buzz.

The album art is interesting for Robbers and Cowards. It looks dirty, but it's not. It's actually very well-organized, detailed, and designed by Maust. This is a good explanation of their music as well: it's extremely well orchestrated but it somehow manages to sound like it may fall apart at any moment. "We Used to Vacation", the opening track of Robbers, explains the simple beauty of living everyday life, as crappy as it can be, and not taking it for granted, because it can always be shoddier: "still things could be much worse/ natural disasters on the evening news/ still things could be much worse/ we still got our health/ my paycheck in the mail."

Another phenomenal song is "Tell Me in the Morning", a track that uses repetitive lyrics, layered and whiny vocals, and a choppy guitar and drum riff to create a gritty re-enactment of a one-night stand. "Pregnant" is a haunting arrangement of soft bass drums, high-pitched strings, and thought-evoking lyrics: "pregnant with doubt/ you'll think it out/ tricks of the trade today/ whisper and shout."

Remember when I said that that this band wasn't extraordinary? Upon further examination, the Cold War Kids seems to have all the qualities that would require a band to be unusually unique: great lyrics, wonderful instrumental stylings, and the opportunity to allow their listeners to second guess their music...and themselves. | Kaylen Hoffman

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