Every Cold War Kids Song, Ranked

Cold War Kids have been one of my favorite bands since I first started listening to them in 2007. I’ve anticipated the release of each of their new albums, and even when an album has disappointed me a bit, they still have redeeming qualities because CWK is such a brilliant band.

So, with the release of the highly anticipated LA Divine coming April 7, I decided to do something a little extreme: rank every single Cold War Kids song. Yes, every single one. From the EPs to albums to one-off tracks to bonus tracks. This is quite an undertaking and I’m sure I will get some of these wrong. So, please, tell me which ones I got wrong, which ones I got right, and if I forgot any.

I didn’t include any side projects, like French Style Furs’ Is Exotic Bait, which did have some excellent songs and started my years-long fascination with Thomas Merton.

UPDATE: In anticipation of their new album out later in 2019, I’ve added all of their songs released since I originally wrote this piece. So that includes everything from LA Divine and This Will All Blow Over In Time. Though songs from TWABOIT are only added if they are new.

The Throwaways

These are the songs I skip every time they come up on shuffle. Listen, even the Rolling Stones had some bad songs. It’s part of being an artist.

96. “Pregnant” – Robbers & Cowards

95. “God, Make Up Your Mind” – Robbers & Cowards

94. “Baby Boy” – Behave Yourself

93. “Avalanche In B” – Loyalty to Loyalty

92. “On The Night My Love Broke Through” – Loyalty to Loyalty

91. “Wilshire Protest” – LA Divine

90. “Sensitive Kid” – Mine Is Yours

89. “Cryptomnesia” – Loyalty to Loyalty

88. “LA River” – LA Divine

87. “Golden Gate Jumpers” – Loyalty to Loyalty

86. “Red Wine, Success” – Robbers & Cowards

85. “Cameras Always On” – LA Divine

84. “Something Is Not Right With Me” – Loyalty to Loyalty

Plucked Too Soon

These songs have some redeeming qualities, but probably could have benefited from more time in the studio or some other change. I don’t skip these every time, but they are rarely my choice to listen to.

83. “Tell Me In The Morning” – Robbers & Cowards

82. “Skip The Charades” – Mine Is Yours

81. “Robbers” – Robbers & Cowards

80. “Finally Begin” – Mine Is Yours

79. “Locker Room Talk” – Single

78. “Portugese Bend” – Five Quick Cuts

77. “Out of the Wilderness” – Mine Is Yours

76. “Broken Open” – Mines Is Yours

75. “Welcome To The Occupation” – Loyalty to Loyalty

74. “Flying Upside Down” – Mine Is Yours

73. “Pine St.” – Tuxedos EP

72. “Free to Breathe” – LA Divine

71. “Hair Down” – Robbers & Cowards

70. “In Harmony In Silver” – This Will All Blow Over In Time

Worth Multiple Listens

Many of these songs are acquired tastes. If you like CWK then you should give these a few listens before truly appreciating them,

69.“Rubidoux” – Robbers & Cowards

If you stick around after the end of this song, you can hear the demo for “Sermons” which actually makes this song even better.

68. “Mine Is Yours” – Mine Is Yours

67. “Against Privacy” – Loyalty to Loyalty

66. “Relief” – Loyalty to Loyalty

65. “Aeon” – Tuxedos EP

64. “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

63. “Love on the Brain” – Los Feliz Blvd

62. “Opium Tea” – This Will All Blow Over In Time

61. “Harold Bloom” – Hold My Home

60. “Open Up the Heavens” – LA Divine

59. “Invicible” – LA Divine

58. “Dreams Old Men Dream” – Loyalty to Loyalty

57. “Coffee Spoon” – Behave Yourself

56. “No Reason to Run” – LA Divine

55. “Expensive Tastes” – Live From Fingerprints

54. “Bitter Poem” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

Solid Tracks

Every one of these is a good song, just not the best that CWK has to offer. Definitely worth listening to whenever they come up.

53. “Bulldozer” – Mine Is Yours

“Luck Down” – LA Divine

52. “One Song At A Time” – Five Quick Cuts

51. “Don’t Look Down On Me (Bonus Track)” – Mine Is Yours

50. “Every Man I Fall For” – Loyalty to Loyalty

I never appreciated this song until I saw them play it live. It took the passion of a live performance for me to really understand what the song was about.

49. “A Million Eyes (From Stella Artois – The Chalice Symphony)” – Single

48. “Minimum Day” – Single

47. “Part of the Night” – LA Divine

46. “Fear & Trembling” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

45. “Hear My Baby Call” – Hold My Home

44. “Nights & Weekends” – Hold My Home

43. “Stop/Rewind” – Five Quick Cuts

42. “Water & Power” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

41. “Ordinary Idols” – LA Divine

40. “Amazing” – Five Quick Cuts

39. “You Don’t Come Through” – Tuxedos EP

38. “Cold Toes On The Cold Floor” – Mine Is Yours

37. “Quiet, Please” – The Paradiso Sessions

36. “Santa Ana Winds” – Behave Yourself

35. “Flower Drum Song” – Hold My Home

Hitting Their Stride

We are nearing the perfection, but not there yet. These are great songs, just not the absolute best that CWK has to offer. If these were the best songs that the band had ever released they would still be one of the best indie bands of the last decade. Yet, they get even better after these.

34. “Passing The Hat” – Robbers & Cowards

33. “Hold My Home” – Hold My Home

32. “Thunderhearts” – Five Quick Cuts

31. “Go Quietly” – Hold My Home

30. “A Change Is Gonna Come” – The Paradiso Sessions

29. “Drive Desperate” – Hold My Home

28. “Hear My Baby Call” –  Hold My Home

27. “Loner Phase” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

26. “Hot Coals” – Hold My Home

25. “Lost That Easy” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

24. “Romance Languages #2” – Tuxedos EP

23. “Sermons” – Behave Yourself

22. “Hotel Anywhere” – Hold My Home

21. “Jailbirds” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

20. “Mexican Dogs” – Loyalty to Loyalty

Best of the Best

These songs are perfect. They are uniquely Cold War Kids, with deep lyrics, Nathan Willet’s signature voice, and are easy to listen to over and over and over again.

19. “Louder Than Ever” – Mine Is Yours

18. “Goodnight, Tennessee (Bonus Track)” – Mine Is Yours

17. “Love Is Mystical” – LA Divine

16. “Lost That Easy” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

15. “Bottled Affection” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

14. “I’ve Seen Enough” – Loyalty to Loyalty

13. “Can We Hang On?” – LA Divine

12. “Audience Of One” – Behave Yourself

The Behave Yourself EP was made up of songs that CWK never put on an album, but had been playing live for years. To me, this EP is a perfect little capsule of what makes CWK great. “Audience” is by far the best song on the EP. It’s been my ringtone for like five years, even though I sort of think song ringtones are dumb. I just keep it because it’s better than anything else I could have on there.

11. “Romance Languages #1” – This Will All Blow Over In Time

I really have no idea why this song took so long to be released. CWK released “Romance Languages #2” on the Tuxedos EP in 2013, but #1 didn’t see the light of day until 2019. This is, of course, assuming that CWK wasn’t being cheeky by giving the songs out-of-order numbers. “Romance Languages #1” is a much more full-fledged song with marimbas and a driving bass line. It’s got a feel that’s unlink any other CWK song.

10. “Royal Blue” – Mine Is Yours

For me, Mine Is Yours was kind of disappointing. The band spent too many songs trying to hit the Alternative Charts. They got away from what they do best. But “Royal Blue” is an example of what they do best. Many of the other songs on the album could have been done by any number of indie/alt rock bands. But “Royal Blue” could only have been done by CWK.

“I guess I’ve always been a bit of a fighter.”

9. “So Tied Up” – LA Divine 

The best song off of LA Divine, it actually was improved upon with a second release that included more of the powerful vocals of Bishop Briggs (aptly titled “So Tied Up – moreBishop). The thumping drums mixed with the jaunty piano drive the song and Nathan Willet’s voice was made to be paired with a strong female vocalist like Briggs. CWK doesn’t collaborate much, but this one is perfect.

8. “Saint John” – Robbers & Cowards

Oh man…what a tune. It’s a song about a black man who killed his sister’s would-be rapist and is now on Death Row. Willet half sings half raps this heartbreaking tale. But, more than the lyrics, the slow, grooving bass coupled with the crashing symbols and the tambourine are the only instruments even used until the piano comes in at the end. It’s a sparse arrangement, telling a tale of a man stuck in a sparse cell.

7. “Miracle Mile” – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

After the disappointment that was Mine Is Yours, CWK could have gone a number of different directions. They could have tried again with the attempts at mainstream success, they could have gone off the deep-end of artistic expression and strangeness, or they could have come out with “Miracle Mile.” Fortunately, they delivered this shot across the bow as their first single off of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. This song rescued the band and set them on the course that they are on now. It’s a frenetic, piano-driven song showcasing the best that CWK has to offer.

6. “All This Could Be Yours” – Hold My Home

Following up the success of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts was difficult and I was nervous that they might not do it. Then, they released “All This Could Be Yours” and I realized that they’d finally found the formula for consistency that they’d been seeking in their music.

5. “First” – Hold My Home

To date, this is CWK’s highest charting single, and for good reason. It’s definitely the most mainstream song they’ve ever released, but it’s still very much a CWK song. You’ve heard this one on commercials, in TV shows, and probably in movies. It’s a soaring anthem even though the lyrics are telling the story of a person spiraling out of control. UPDATE: As part of TWABOIT they released the demo of “First” and I might like that even better. It’s more stripped down, less soaring and anthemic. It’s great.

4. “We Used To Vacation” – Robbers & Cowards

I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a song where the music and lyrics so perfectly capture a mood. This song tells the story of an alcoholic father coming to grips with the destruction he’s caused to his family.

The lyrics are biting: “I promised to my wife and children/I’d never touch another drink as long as I live/But even then it sounds so soothing/To mix a gin and sink into oblivion.”

The music is, at times, uncomfortable, with the shaker in the background, the dissonant chords being smashed on the piano, and the crashing symbols. Seeing this song performed live is a treat.

3. “Fashionable (Bonus Track)” – Mine Is Yours

For some reason, a couple of my favorite songs on Mine Is Yours are the bonus tracks. This strange song is a long one and it starts out very simple and quiet. It’s just about a woman and the simplicity of a black dress, but it begins to swell and eventually Willett is asking the question “Who will sweep you off your feet?” over and over again. It’s hard to describe exactly what I love about this song, but I think it’s great.

2. “Hang Me Up To Dry” – Robbers and Cowards

This is where it all got started for CWK. The song that would take them to late night shows, win them early critical notice, and get their first album off the ground. You’ve definitely heard this one through the years.

1. “Hospital Beds” – Robbers & Cowards

This song takes me back to high school, riding around in my friend’s car. See, she was the one person we knew that was cool enough to go to Austin City Limits and she came back raving about this band. I’d already heard “Hang Me Up To Dry” but when she played “Hospital Beds” for us, I knew that this band was special. This unique, piano-driven song about hospital beds and bringing buckets by the dozen changed the way I listened to music forever. I was fully into this band, and now ten years later, I still am. Thanks Brynn, I’m glad you got to go to ACL. I still haven’t made it.

6 thoughts on “Every Cold War Kids Song, Ranked

Add yours

  1. It’s hard to rank perfection! I can’t get to the skip button fast enough when ‘avalanche in b’ comes on. If someone says they have not heard of cwk I usually play them Hospital Beds. It’s a great song to weed out people you shouldn’t hang out with anymore lol.

  2. Although some of your “throwaways” are some of my favorites, along with a few of your top 10’s being my throwaways—without a doubt, Hospital Beds is the best gateway drug for the uninitiated. But glad to know there is somebody else out there that loves CWK enough to compile a list. Cheers.

  3. This is a truly amazing list. Broken Open is criminally underrated, and All this could be yours equally overrated, but I can’t disagree with you on any other ratings. This is just perfect.

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