Cold War Kids Robbers & Cowards

Released last fall in the U.S., this debut album by these Californians (who met at an evangelical Christian college, of all places) has been floating around as an affordable import but now finally rears its head domestically in Canada. While it feels a little belated (the band have already toured the country a few times), Robbers & Cowards is still well worth a listen despite its imperfections. Existing in an indie rock-centric universe amongst recent luminaries like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Sound Team and Tapes ’n Tapes — all of whom they’ve toured with — Cold War Kids share a distinct kinship to those three acts with their slackened guitar riffs, eccentric bearing and the fact that they were blogged about till kingdom came. From behind a piano, singer Nathan Willett assumes the now commonplace vocals indie rockers have fashioned to stand out, which is to yelp and fall in and out of falsetto like every popular front-man these days. He has his work cut out for him though, especially since he could battle Scissor Sisters to the death with such a mighty pitch. His lyrical content stands out even more, with eerie, affecting narratives about a man on death row for killing his sister’s rapist or contemplating the abortion of a pregnancy. It’s all riveting stuff but Willett tends to get a little too preachy, at times, which can spoil the moment if you pay enough attention. It’s hardly as whimsical or consistently engaging as, say, CYHSY but Robbers & Cowards does have "Hang Me Up To Dry,” which is a damn fine song that alone can certainly carry these guys for a while. (Warner)