Robbers & Cowards

Signed to the hot new label Downtown (home to Gnarls Barkley), this California quartet matches shaggy underground rock with an urgent soulfulness and a vintage vibe on their latest, Robbers & Cowards. The loosey-goosey funk vamps draw you in, but the reason to come back is Nathan Willett’s wonderfully wounded voice, which brings pathos to the barrelhouse piano stomps and swampy shuffles. And Willett’s lyrics detail the lives of tragic characters — a lapsed-alcoholic dad, a death-row inmatE — that could be straight out of a Raymond Carver story.

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