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Picks and Pans Review: Cold War Kids

updated 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Robbers & Cowards
REVIEWED BY CHRIS STRAUSS
CRITIC'S CHOICE
INDIE ROCK

They may hail from the O.C., but there's no teen drama on the engrossing, energetic debut from this indie-rock quartet. Against throbbing bass lines and shimmering tambourine, singer-pianist Nathan Willett—a former high school English teacher—relates striking stories of grown-up redemption on the death-row parable "Saint John" and "We Used to Vacation," about an alcoholic dad who seeks a silver lining while he laments the "best recital I had to ruin" and how "I missed my son's graduation." Cold War Kids' frenzied passion comes through on every track, making this one of the most enjoyable listens of 2006.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Saint John"

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