Thanks in no small part to his throaty wail and sturdy songwriting, Nathan Willett has expertly steered his Orange County quartet Cold War Kids from mere blog buzz to a sweet record deal, worldwide attention and now a domino-like series of sold-out tour dates at big venues. Yet he still plays it so cool, opening last month's hotly anticipated Robbers & Cowards follow-up Loyalty to Loyalty with the meandering jam "Against Privacy" instead of the rollicking "Mexican Dogs" or the bouncy, Spoon-ish "Something Is Not Right with Me." Similarly, the boys have made sure not to entirely clean up all the frayed edges or quell the hungry inertia that got folks so excited about them in the first place. What we're left with, then, is a record that group-hugs indie rock and classic rock with such warmth and affection that fans of one could find themselves suddenly swayed by the other. It's not for purists, but as long as Willett and company keep with the ringing anthems, lilting ballads and memorable wordplay, they'll continue to be standard-bearers for a new kind of rock that's broad and esoteric all at once.
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