It's safe to say that Cold War Kids have had quite an interesting career trajectory; they've waited until now to release their big pop album, three albums and seven years on from their debut. 'Robbers & Cowards' was a nice mix of blues, rock and pop that marked the Californian band out as one to keep an eye on, but the follow-up was the difficult and dark Loyalty to Loyalty, an album which proved the band were less concerned with writing songs like 'Hang Me Up to Dry' and 'Hospital Beds', and more bothered about following their own path. Personally, I think it's their best album, but then again, it connects well with the place I was in when I first heard it. There are even those who proclaim that 2011's underrated 'Mine is Yours' is the group's best work so far. Well, those who were fond of that record are going to lap Dear Miss Lonelyhearts right up. It's a colossal album, featuring their most diverse songs yet, but also their most immediate.

Kicking off with the explosive power-pop of 'Miracle Mile', a piano-driven song that the band sensibly chose as the lead single, the album features the band taking big risks and reaping huge rewards, something which is highlighted by the prominence of synth melodies and keyboard hooks in the new material. Maybe it's just me, but for the first time it feels like they don't have anything to prove, and are much more confident in themselves as a result. "You take yourself so serious / If we didn't live, we'd be crying all the time," frontman Nathan Willett states on 'Lost That Easy', and he could just as easily be admonishing himself. CWK are sounding looser, less tense and a great deal less anxious. He said that the band were "ready to let certain songs go further than before," but the overall feel of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is that they've taken several steps up, right across the board. 'Loner Phase' and 'Jailbirds' are other examples of songs on which the band embrace their pop sensibilities, but it's not like their old style has been consigned to history - there's room for some sparseness too, as on the waltzing blues of 'Tuxedoes', or the kind of closeness heard in the rolling drums and hissing cymbals that open the title track.

Not only have they figured out what works and what doesn't, but they have also finally found themselves. As clichéd as that sounds, this sounds like their previous three albums rolled into one with a whole heap of new influences and sounds thrown in. The chiming xylophone that opens the surprisingly delicate-sounding 'Bitter Poem', the album's cinematic closing track, gives no indication of the huge-sounding climax it will swell to. While a title like that would hint at the band throwing out one of their more rage-fuelled songs, they throw a curveball right at the end of the record and go out on quite a high note. Dear Miss Lonelyhearts sounds like it could win over those who have been on the fence about the band up until now. There's been a time and place for each incarnation of Cold War Kids, but this time they've done more than just change their sound - they've changed their outlook and ramped up their ambition, and the result is unexpectedly joyous. Who knew?