Review: Cold War Kids – Mine Is Yours

Artist: Cold War Kids
Album: Mine Is Yours
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Downtown/Mercury/V2

I’m not an indie fan. I never have been, my predilection for Jack White’s musical adventures aside, so I’m never quite sure how to detail such music for others. Granted, it must be said this album left me conflicted. I had it on earlier in the background as I did some travel planning, and felt neither moved nor enthused by it. When I put it on to absorb proper after some reading and a calming cup of tea, I found myself a little more open to its charms, but now, several listens later, I’m back on the dissuasion side of the fence.

As a crafting of mood and atmosphere, it must be said, this is exemplary. Mine Is Yours begins innocuously but as it progresses, gracefully glides into your psyche and lays firm roots. It’s bare and soulful – a light and facile listening experience, though this begs the question as to whether the record can be engaged with on a more intimate level. It feels grey, and monochrome, its colourless drifting never particularly inventive or stirring, but offering enough intrigue to leave some impression for the willing nonetheless.

The title and opening track, Mine is Yours, fades in on a bass note, reminding me a little of the pensive ramblings that power Air’s score for The Virgin Suicides. Comparisons with that masterful work end there however, when vocalist Nathan Willett takes to the mic. His voice is powerful and soulful, seemingly at odds with the understated music accompanying him. He supplants the music as the focal point of the group’s work, such is the strength and range of his vocals against the comparatively intangible backing.

“Royal Blue” is an apt highlight for the jazzy instrumentation of the album. There are enough mismatched beats and percussive detours here to mould something vaguely catchy, if not quite memorable. A song or two later, “Out of the Wilderness” continues this trend, founding itself on a steady repetitive rhythm that conjures genial images of maritime and sunsets. The vocal swells into a serenade, with some complementary choral undertones attempting to create something floaty and dreamlike. A jingling bell joins the mix as everything gets a bit lost in Coldplay-style imitation dreamscape, and I’m completely lost in translation.

Willet’s vocals on “Skip the Charades” remind me dangerously of David Grey for some reason, and the song itself is a bit too mundane to assess in great detail. As with most of the other compositions, it’s based on some intricate musical workings that, while individually faultless, don’t quite gel together. It seems to aim to be mellifluous and profound, but feels insincere. By the time “Sensitive Kid” strikes up I really feel like I’m missing a point. It’s almost ennui in musical form, a dull thudding bass line irksome and banal, and the energetic vocal stylings do little to redeem it.

“Bulldozer” does succeed in weaving depth into its recipe, feeling a lot more interesting and natural than the rest of the album. The song builds to a sweet little breakdown fuelled by keys and raucous percussion, with a soaring vocal line that collectively and finally inject some oomph into a very slow-burning work. Likewise, “Cold Toes on the Cold Floor” is far more amiable than the album as a whole. It has some genuine flair, a gorgeous jazzy rhythm that smoulders with sass and attitude, and succeeds in being the only truly infectious song on offer here. This one has echoes of the movie score about it too, feeling smoky and intensive, carving its own rogue, discordant path on a minimalist record.

Mine is Yours is very able, technically-speaking, but it’s not very interesting. Indeed, the tensely structured bass lines and jarring piano and guitar notes echoing throughout could be the album’s undoing. It all sounds like the same reworked melody, melting into one uninspiring whole and making it difficult to pick out individual highlights.
If one makes the effort to really listen, the underlying score is perfectly lovely and masterfully constructed, and there are one or two standouts. However, having to retrieve them from the mire is bothersome and detracts from the experience as a whole. I’m sure fans will find magic and serenity in its gentle refrains, but unfortunately nothing’s lingering too long in my memory.

Score: 5/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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