Long Beach funk-infused indie rockers Cold War Kids took an unconventional path for their latest series of releases, New Age Norms. The album is being released as a trilogy, with the each of the first two parts released so far including eight new tracks. It makes each release more than an EP, but not quite to the traditional LP length, giving fans more than enough new material to chew on for a while.
On New Age Norms 2, the band takes all the elements it does best—funk and soul jams mixed with lo-fi indie rock—and fleshes it out to the nth degree. The tunes are big, bold, confident and as infectious as they are expansive. Cold War Kids blow the doors off with the opening track, “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now.” The blasting horn section meshes with crunchy guitar riffs in and sounds like the Dap-Kings playing old-school rock and roll. The song is just two minutes and 50 seconds, but sets an immediate tone for the record.
The band turns back the clock on “Obsession,” a retro rocker with some rockabilly influences. Frontman Nathan Willett’s voice shines on the track with a passionate delivery that elevates it to new heights. Willett’s authenticity as a vocalist is impressive here. He sings with a naturally raw power that effectively drives home the band’s funk rhythms.
“You Already Know” is a four-on-the-floor pounder that would have any dance floor immediately in motion…if dance floors were still safe to step onto right now. The song is modern indie dance rock, with just a slight pinch of Bee Gees bombast that make the song absolutely lift out of the speakers.
The mid-tempo “Ceiling Fan” falls somewhere in the neighborhood of alt-rock funk, with an infectious head-bobbing melody. Willett’s vocally delivery is slightly different, showcasing more of a lower register than the first half of the record. At times, a little bit of George Michael comes through as Willett sings over the swaying beat.
“Regret Regret” doesn’t necessarily slow the pace down but provides a more subdued and bluesy side of the band. Willett’s vocal sits slightly lower in the mix, allowing guitarist David Quon’s silky smooth guitar licks to shine. “I know you’re praying for me/ So that I’ll be strong/ I don’t want you fading from me/ There are two sides to this coin,” Willet sings in the bridge as it builds back to a triumphant final chorus.
Willett sings alongside only a keyboard accompaniment on the opening notes of “Somewhere” before the rest of the band kicks in on the pulsing mid-tempo track. “Across the Divide,” meanwhile, dives back in to some of the band’s throwback influences. It opens with stark singing as the rest of the band subsequently enters to fill out the ballad soundscape.
New Age Norms 2 closes out with the dramatic “Catch Me Falling,” which begins in one place and ends somewhere entirely different. The song begins as a spacey and wandering jazz ballad before journeying to a soaring finale that has the band, brass and maybe even a choir for good measure; all in unison to take the album home.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.