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COLD WAR KIDS & r & & r & Loyalty to Loyalty & r & & r & 2-1/2 STARS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he newest release from the Cold War Kids is a step backwards. Filled with atmospheric, meandering, meditative tunes, the album lacks the spontaneity and the excitement that made 2006's Robbers & amp; Cowards so endearing. Whatever the band's intention, Loyalty to Loyalty treads dangerously close to the "interesting" album that many bands want to make but few do well.

The first effort at creating a new identity comes through the tempo of the songs. Much less is made of singer Nathan Willett's dynamic vocal staccato. His bark is replaced, on tracks "Against Privacy" and "Avalanche in B," with a jazzy-type croon, apt for the smoky-room theatrics of these tracks. But different and interesting cannot be equated in the present cases. Kudos for the effort to take some risks. Too bad the results aren't up to snuff. Maybe next time.


DOWNLOAD: "Welcome to the Occupation"


Gentleman Jesse & amp; His Men

4-1/2 STARS

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s if they needed another notch on their belts, Gentleman Jesse & amp; His Men release music on the greatest label name ever (Douche Master). It is only fitting that their straight-ahead, lo-fi, garage-y majesty is equally addictive. From toe-tappers with sentimental leanings ("All I Need Tonight (Is You)") to the Camper Van Beethoven-esque riffs confronting alienation ("Wrong Time"), the songs give Atlanta yet another claim to fame.

One characteristic that makes this album particularly successful is its ability to make the "garage" label account for some new slickness. The songs are well-crafted: taut, precise, pop-driven. It would be fair to suggest they sound way too similar. Yet each holds the possibility for becoming something else, say, in a live setting. And it is the possibility of this transformation that makes it hard to dismiss the band as just another image-grabbing bunch of opportunists (though some certainly will try). A masterwork.


DOWNLOAD: "Black Hole"
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