JAMES H. COLLINS
Cold War Kids, "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts" (Downtown Records)
The four-piece indie band Cold War Kids released their debut EP, "Mulberry Street," in 2005 while they were still working out of one member's apartment in Fullerton, Calif. That record featured "Quiet, Please!" -- a unique, drama-building, slow tempo tune that showcased lead vocalist Nathan Willett's somersaulting tenor.
After a few more EPs and albums, and relocating to Long Beach, the band is releasing its fourth full-length album, "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts." Willett's unique vocals are still their signature, but this 10-song collection is uneven. When the arrangements become crowded, instead of adding color or ornamentation, the songs get weighed down and are less interesting.
"Dear Miss Lonelyhearts" lacks the wonderful energy heard on the 2010 EP, "Behave Yourself," which included original songs like "Coffee Spoon" and "Audience." The guitars were simple and bright, and the drums an efficient motor. Willett's voice is theatrical and dominant, and best highlighted with sparser arrangements and even slower tempos.
The title track is the most effective song on the album for precisely these reasons. There's space for Willett's voice to soar, the guitars are pretty, chiming along a plodding tempo with restrained reverb. The drums rumble like ominous thunder.
This talented singer needs some room and understated accompaniment. Unfortunately, this record affords him too few opportunities.
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