New Music Heaven : Cold War Kids

August 11, 2019
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Hear Cold War Kids' latest single "Complainer" all week on 94/7! When you do, let us know what you think by texting HOT or NOT to 44624. To get a free download of the song in your inbox, just join the free 94/7 Nation.

For nearly 15 years, Nathan Willett and Cold War Kids have fielded the shifts in the music landscape’s seismic activity as well as the ebbs and flows in their own camp while simultaneously sticking to their game plan. Over the course of a dozen releases on majors and indies alike, non-stop tours and the festival circuit’s biggest stages, massive radio and streaming successes as well as a few lineup changes, Cold War Kids have become a major part of the modern scene.

Coming off of the high water marks of 2014’s Hold My Home with its smash single “First” and the Capitol Records-backed LA Divine in 2017 feeling mostly satiated, Willett began to hone in on what was most exciting and integral to him in both the Cold War Kids recipe as well as in the current music climate as he began to write new material. He obsessed over the seemingly never- ending stream of Kanye West produced records released in the summer of 2018, enamored of their breezy compactness and fresh feeling, which excited him to explore a new working relationship with his own producer of favor, Lars Stalfors (St. Vincent, Foster the People). The pair entered the studio to write a very specific, of-the-moment type of album, encouraged to take the doors off of the idea of what the band was in order to see where it could go.

Willett and Stalfors incorporated some pieces of the core CWK sound while stripping away the rafter-reaching production of their past records, aiming for leaner, tighter tunes. And, taking inspiration from a slogan on a T-shirt made by the band’s bass player and resident visual artist Matt Maust, Willett had the project’s title, lyrical themes, and structure in mind even before any songs had been completed—three unique eight-song volumes called New Age Norms.

Writing from urgent, of-the-moment perspectives in order to respect and reflect the day’s normative behaviors and climate, Willett focused on a bird’s eye view of the current values he was observing all around him—the new norms of class, gender, race, and power that are creating our modern world. The first volume’s eight songs explore the connective tissue apparent to him in the landscape, with the sense of optimism and uplifting positivity he feels necessary to approach any issue, or song.

One such line—“Don’t sit around and complain about it”—provided the focal point for the first song on and written for New Age Norms, “Complainer,” a call to do something constructive rather than dwell on all the things that might drag us down. Co-written with the pop writer Bonnie McKee (Katy Perry, Rita Ora) and Electric Guest’s Asa Taccone (whose drummer, Matthew Compton, plays drums throughout New Age Norms), “Complainer” sizzles with its fresh mix of modern production and stand-by CWK sonic influences like Can and Talking Heads.

For Willett and Cold War Kids, even as today’s norms continue to shift at lightning speed—in daily life, in rock and roll, and beyond—the band’s dedicated approach to its art remains steadfast as it delivers messages of positivity while pursuing new values and a better world.