I don’t usually promote bands before I post about them, but my enthusiasm for some bands can’t wait the several weeks it takes for things to appear in the queue. Avalanche City was one notable exception to this, and Cobalt and the Hired Guns is another. Everyone Wins is just what it sounds like: a rollicking, optimistic blast of rock music by a band that has it all clicking perfectly.
It’s somewhat intriguing that this a X and the Ys band name, because I hear two distinct lead singers in the band. Opener “Like You Like Me Like Me” has a direct, snarky voice that wouldn’t be out of place in sneering ’00s indie rock. Follow-up “Leaving” features a vocalist with a more melodic, sing-song style that invokes comparisons to Ben Gibbard in tone and melodic line structure. Both singers contribute memorable turns in the album, with neither really taking the front seat in my mind and becoming the titular Cobalt.
It’s all to the better of the album, however. Both vocalists are adept at matching their voice to the instruments, leading the song without dominating it. The horn section and the traditional band set-up (guitar/bass/drums) are equal players in creating the sound of this album, and that’s why two vocalists works out. This fluid approach to the sound allows The Hired Guns to whip through early ’00s pop-punk (“Leaving”), hand-clapping country-punk (“You Left Your Sweater…”), the wide-eyed indie-pop of “Of Summer,” and ooh-la-la-la surf-punk (“Ghost of the Road”) with ease, without turning the album into a herky-jerky trainwreck. Instead of a weakness, the album’s diversity is its greatest strength: there’s not a boring second on the first listen – or the second, or the third.
“Tailgunner of the Flying Fortress” is a historical character study crammed into a country-punk tune, “Lazarus” is a saloon-piano theatrical ballad, and “Last August” is a scream-it-out jam. It would be the jam of this album, if “The Argument” didn’t take that honor. As it stands, it’s the best piece of storytelling the band throws down, narrowly edging the more linear but less visceral “You Left Your Sweater…” in sheer memorable factor: “It’s not batting your lashes/you swing for the fences/You were hitting 1.000/it was almost offensive/in Boston.” (Also, it’s got some sweet “whoa-ohs” to shout out.) But, “The Argument”! The blatant kiss-off track, it’s also the only one where they yell “one-two-three-four” and bring in what sounds like an accordion. They also have a really fun double-time section, which I absolutely adore.
Cobalt and the Hired Guns mash the best parts of rock’n’roll, pop-punk, indie-pop and pop into one gigantic exclamation point of an album. Everyone Wins has half a dozen amazing tracks and and a handful more great ones in a 13-song album, and all but one or two are specifically created to make you smile. How could you avoid this album? I couldn’t. Get on it, blast it out your car windows, and enjoy those fading days of summer meshing into fall.