Sophomore efforts are tough, and Cold War Kids have much hype (good and bad) to live up to. With Loyalty to Loyalty, they’ve exceeded expectations.

They’re no less brooding, examining issues with a tone of cynicism mixed into their intelligent prose. Nathan Willet’s unmistakable wail is reminiscent of classic blues and soul on mellow numbers like the opener “Against Privacy” and the suicide prevention tale “Golden Gate Jumpers” – like the mad love child of Etta James and Janis Joplin.

But it is on jarring dance-rhythms that the band really shines, like the neurotic “Something Is Not Right with Me” and societal disenchantment anthem “Welcome to the Occupation.” “I’ve Seen Enough” glimmers as much as it sounds like coming down hard from amphetamines.

It’s a gripe that Willet’s vocals dominate their sound, forcing other members who are equally brilliant to dwell in the sonic background, and the production on this album does little to dispel these concerns.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Truly powerful crooners who carry the weight of the world in their vocal chords are a rarity. Why shouldn’t they flaunt it? Grade: A

Loyalty to Loyalty is currently available.