Cold War Kids combine emotion and fun in ‘New Age Norms 1’

Album presents a strong start in the first installment of ongoing trilogy

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Indie rock band Cold War Kids, pictured here at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles in 2013, released their new album November 1. 

Courtesy Neon Tommy

Indie rock band Cold War Kids released their newest album “New Age Norms 1” Nov. 1. The album’s title implies that there is something more following this initial release. The “1” creates a sense of wonder — could there be a “2” or perhaps even a “3?” Cold War Kids have confirmed that indeed, this is the case. “New Age Norms 1” is the first sequence of a three album trilogy the artists are creating under a cohesive project titled “New Age Norms.” 

The album features only eight songs, which seems like a surprisingly short tracklist. Each album is set to feature eight tracks, for a grand total of 24 songs by the end. In an interview with Billboard, band member Nathan Willett alluded to the band’s inspiration for this unique method of staggered releases. Willett revealed that listening to Kanye West’s various projects inspired the trilogy, stating “I knew then I wanted our next release to be three volumes – eight songs each. Without the baggage and hoopla of a full record/tour/concept – more spread out – loose and inspired.” The album is meant to lack cohesiveness, but not in a bad way. 

“New Age Norms 1” is an enjoyable album to listen to from beginning to end. Each and every song is intentional and lyrical, describing emotional topics such as love, dissatisfaction and comfort. The album begins with what is arguably one of the release’s most notable and popular songs, “Complainer.” The song touts a funky and fresh upbeat sound, with lyrics promoting a message that certainly rings true for college students and busybodies alike — the phrase “Don’t sit around and complain about it” is repeated throughout the song. The chorus features background vocals that sound like young kids in conjunction with the band’s vocals cheering the mantra. This song conjures up an almost nostalgic remembrance of being chided for complaining as a child, but knowing deep down that the only person responsible for positive change in your life is you. 

The songs that follow are audibly similar to the sound introduced by “Complainer.” “Fine Fine Fine” is a fast-paced tune that is enjoyable despite it’s tinge of predictability. On this album in particular, Cold War Kids do an admirable job of inserting unique yet suitable vocals — in addition to their own voices — that add an interesting aspect to their songs. “Waiting For Your Love” was released as a single prior to the release of the album, though it feels like a questionable choice for a single release in comparison to the strength of the rest of the album. However, it does have an undeniable disco vibe that makes you want to put on your dancing shoes and groove. 

“Beyond the Pale” is the only slow song on the album. The track stands out as an emotional ballad driven by beautiful piano chords. It is a departure from the rest of the album’s upbeat guitar-driven songs. “Dirt in my Eyes” upholds the lively sentiment of the album and is another dance-worthy tune. “4th of July” was released as a pair of singles along with “Complainer” in June, probably to evoke a patriotic feeling prior to the holiday. The vocals muse about memories of a fun-packed, relaxing July Fourth holiday, bringing back thoughts of summertime to the listener. The band employs electric guitar riffs perfectly in the song, which makes it a standout on the album instrumentally. 

“Calm Your Nerves” is more relaxed than the rest of the album, describing an endearing story about being there for somebody. The emotion in the song is raw and easy to appreciate. “Tricky Devil” deserves recognition that it probably won’t receive from the popular masses. The combination of softer instruments with subdued vocals is haunting in a way that sends chills up your spine.

In an era of lyrics that seem void of meaningful emotion, this album alludes to the things that truly matter in love and in life. “New Age Norms 1” sees Cold War Kids accomplish the feat of merging depth in their lyrics with undeniably amusing beats fit to sing and dance to. The one word that successfully sums up this album is simply “fun.”  

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