The Rustic's Birthday Bash Featuring Cold War Kids & Special Guest
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On their sixth album LA Divine, Cold War Kids pay tribute to Los Angeles and all its strange glory. The follow-up to 2014's Hold My Home -- featuring the gold-certified single "First" -- the band's latest is slightly tongue-in-cheek in its title. "In many ways LA is the least divine city, the most hedonistic and irreverent and disconnected from history," says Cold War Kids singer/guitarist/pianist Nathan Willett. Still, LA Divine embodies the Long Beach-bred band's endless fascination with their adopted hometown. "LA's so massive, I feel like I'm always finding something new in it," says bassist Matt Maust. "It's an incredibly weird place, and I'm happy to have made a record that totally honors that weirdness."
A feeling of infinite discovery instills much of LA Divine, the band's most expansive and ambitious effort so far. With Cold War Kids having recently marked the 10-year anniversary of their acclaimed debut Robbers & Cowards (a 2006 release that spawned their breakthrough single "Hang Me Up to Dry"), the album channels the kinetic energy of a newly revitalized band. "The excitement I have about this new album -- it feels so much like the way I felt back when our first record came out," notes Maust.
For Cold War Kids -- whose lineup also includes drummer Joe Plummer, multi-instrumentalist Matthew Schwartz, and guitarist David Quon -- that rejuvenation follows a creative rebirth of sorts. As Willett explains, the band took a more pop-informed and decidedly inventive approach to the making of LA Divine. "From the start of the band, our tastes have always been very backward-looking in terms of the tones and sounds and instrumentation we're working with," he says. "On this album we wanted to embrace something more modern, because in many ways the most creative sounds happening right now are coming from the world of pop and out of that influence we've ironically created what sounds like our most rock record yet "
With its sonic palette inspired by everything from Frank Ocean's Blonde to Florence & The Machine to Alabama Shakes, LA Divinemerges that artful, hook-minded production with Cold War Kids' classic post-punk grit. And in his lyrics, Willett offers both raw vulnerability and layered complexity, bringing his heart-on-sleeve sensibilities to songs exploring long-lasting love. "So many songs are about new love or about breakups, but I wanted to go deeper than that for this record," he says. "We're older now and we have more life experience, and it felt right to have these songs about the beauty and the ugliness that comes with long-term relationships."
Produced by their repeat collaborator Lars Stalfors (Health, Local Natives), LA Divine opens with lead single "Love Is Mystical": a soulful, sweeping anthem about seeking transcendence and greater depth in love. "It's a very LA thing but also just a very American thing: we think attraction is all about the physical, and we don't think so much about the spiritual or mysterious element of it," says Willett. A more pensive meditation on enduring love, the slow-burning "Restless" brings sparse beats and ethereal textures to bracingly honest lyrics about "the kind of relationship where you're both always searching for something more," according to Willett. And on "So Tied Up," British singer/songwriter Bishop Briggs lends her formidable vocals to a stomping, gospel-infused number that shines a light on everyday struggle ("Love is a twisted game and no one ever wins") but undeniably burns with the promise of hope.
Befitting of an ode to Los Angeles, LA Divine also confronts the anxieties of aging and the toxic lure of reckless living. Urgent and unhinged, "Luck Down" gives a blunt but loving picture of self-destruction ("I won't lecture you on Lexapro...You'd rather medicate/With every pour"). But while "Can We Hang On?" admits that "we cannot stay forever young and out of our heads," the song's cascading guitar work and soaring harmonies make for subtly triumphant look at growing older and stumbling toward transformation.