Nothing Not New: Cold War Kids

Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

Cold War Kids

  Title: Behave Yourself (EP)
  Release date: January 19, 2010
  Label: Downtown

This is another one of those bands I'd heard the cool kids talking about but had never actually heard their music. I had no preconceived notions about Cold War Kids and knew little else about them except that they were one of them buzz bands that usually flickers brightly for about three weeks and then no one ever hears from them again because the "tastemakers" in the alternative media have already chewed up them and spit them out.

On this new four-song EP, I was immediately taken aback by the woman's voice. I really liked it. It was devoid of any affectation (sorry, at the moment, I can't quite describe the affectation that plagues so many current female vocalists; but if you've listened to the music on iPod ads on TV, it's that affectation), just a natural, strong, clear tenor. Yeah, cool voice. For once in the early-going of this Nothing Not New project, I was actually looking forward to hearing the rest of the songs on the EP. While listening and enjoying, I went to the Internet to read about Cold War Kids. Oh, man! That woman is a guy -- and he goes by the name Nathan. Well, that certainly changes thing. Could I continue to like CWK as much knowing they'd duped me?

Turns out, yes. I was liking the music here, an organic, spare sound with unadorned instrumentation. I love the production, like that on an '80s-era Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds record, like it was recorded live in the studio. And that song "Santa Ana Winds" is quite good, a simple repetitive bass riff, and lyrics about the titular breezes "making headlines again." After repeated listens, I realized I didn't mind Mrs. Nathan's vocals so much after all. 

Cold War Kids = My first breakthrough in the battle against aesthetic atrophy. 

Best song: "Santa Ana Winds," but they're all pretty solid on this EP.
Rotation: For now, heavy. 
Déja Vu: To my ears, this band's influences aren't immediately obvious. Maybe a little Velvet Underground (but who isn't influenced by them) and early Pavement. Nathan Willett's got kind of a Jack White thing going on vocally.
I'd rather listen to: Given that it was released in the U.S. 30 years ago today, I'd rather listen to the Clash's London Calling. Sadly, I will not hear that great record again until 2011.
Grade: B+

Tomorrow in Nothing Not New: the new Yeasayer record.

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