Local Honey: Cold War Kids’ newest album offers fresh sound rooted in Nashville’s vibe

I’m not one to get all worked up over seeing Faith Hill at Whole Foods with no make-up on, but Music Row studios have this strange tendency to attract talented outsiders to their facilities, and that makes a game of spot that musician worth your while. For example, did you ever consider the identity of that feisty old lady that cut you in line at Hot Diggity Dog last week? Wanda Jackson. No big deal. How about the gentleman with the dark sunglasses sitting in the corner at Café Coco? It was just Elvis Costello. And let’s not forget the rather silent fellow wearing a toboggan at Taco Mamacita in the middle of the summer, who then retreated to the church on the corner after his meal to pray for agreeable digestion. That was no doubt Matt Maust, of the Long Beach foursome Cold War Kids, headed back to Oceanway Studios (actually a 100 year old church) to wrap up some bass tracking.

“Mine is Yours,” Cold War Kids’ latest album that dropped last Tuesday, was almost exclusively recorded and mixed at four Nashville studios throughout 2010 with producer Jacquire King, who notably works with local big whigs The Features and Kings of Leon. Each of CWK’s three full length studio releases has served as a stepping stone in a new direction.

They obviously took advantage of their time recording in Nashville to once again attempt something atypical, audibly abandoning much of their trademark raucous grit in favor of the more sleek and refined sound found in “Mine Is Yours.”

The new record exhibits markedly tighter composition in many tracks. This is a continuation of a trend which arguably began with the “Behave Yourself” EP and serves to spotlight the growth and development of their musicianship.

At first listen, it may be off-putting to a die-hard Cold War Kids fan who craves that reckless emotional fervor of “Robbers and Cowards.” In spite of the more controlled melodies and direct lyrics, if you hold any preconceived notions about CWK, this is a record that will demand your attention and understanding, your time and patience, to uncover what it has to offer. A quick misconception is that the control represents restraint, but I think it actually exemplifies the progress of merging passion with skill.

Cold War Kids tour in support of “Mine Is Yours” begins next week in the UK. If the performances from their fall tour are any indication, a more structured sound hasn’t caused them to lose touch with the energetic, boisterous stage show for which they are known.

They’ll be swinging back through Nashville near the end of their unyielding stateside tour in late March to play the Cannery Ballroom.