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Cold War Kids, ‘Loyalty to Loyalty’ (Downtown)

While Cold War Kids may not make religious music, they like to preach. The California band open their second album by overtly endorsing the bohemian lifestyle (“Against Privacy”), then singer Nathan Willett intensifies the finger- wagging: “Raising your kids, America / You treat ’em like an obligation” (from “Welcome to the Occupation,” not an R.E.M. cover). Willett’s voice, a soulful yell that stretches vowels like taffy, proclaims, declares, and accuses, as though through a megaphone.

Relying on sturdy-legged piano chords (“I’ve Seen Enough”), boogie rock (“Mexican Dogs”), and caffeinated backbeats to boost Willett’s narratives, Loyalty to Loyalty is rarely subtle. To avoid overkill, the band occasionally turn down the volume, and with “Avalanche in B” and “Every Man I Fall For,” they clear space for Willett’s best lyrical moments. On the latter, he imagines himself as a woman numbed by bad relationships, trapped in a world where lovers drink black coffee and trade places in bed after the graveyard shift.

Loyalty to Loyalty does let in a brief flicker of light. “Golden Gate Jumpers” waxes somewhat optimistic, starting with a suicidal woman on the ledge (the bridge of the title gets a jumper every two weeks), but ends with the narrator saving her life.Maybe the world could be a better place, if Cold War Kids were just there to set us straight.