Release Date: Jul 14, 2017
Record label: Dangerbird Records
While not as famous as a certain other Montreal band who have a thing for strings and are led by a married couple (clue - initials AF), The Dears have been enriching the sonic landscape for more than 20 years with intelligently crafted, orchestral indie. The two-part opus forming their sixth and seventh albums, is, in a sense, a rock musical about aspects of love with each song depicting a snapshot in a life. Volume One focused on screwed-up desire and damaging relationships; the curtain lifts again half a year later, and we find Murray A Lightburn (a deep-voiced, deep-hearted Damon Albarn) and Natalia Yanchak (her vocals lo-fi cool) singing of commitment and tenderness, and the threat of its destruction.
While many of their early aughts Belle Province contemporaries have faded away, the Dears have pressed on, steadily swooning their way through four melodramatic full-lengths since the classic No Cities Left in 2003. Now, they're back with Times Infinity Volume Two, the followup to 2015's excellent Volume One. Despite multiple lineup changes in recent years, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak remain the emotional centre of the band, like lighthouse keepers for any hopeless indie-rock romantics at sea. This latest record, which plays with themes of commitment and devotion, is a defiant declaration that the Dears have no plans of letting that light go out.
Murray Lightburn has never suffered from a lack of ambition. His tenure at the helm of The Dears, a role he shares with wife and co-conspirator Natalia Yanchak, has found him steering the band through an ever-shifting array of soundscapes over the past 20 years, making them one of Montreal's most intriguing, if not always easily accessible, outfits. They made rapid headway from the beginning, courtesy of early efforts that went by exotic titles like Orchestral Pop Noir Romantique, No Cities Left, Degeneration Street, and Gang of Losers, recordings that suggested more than a hint of exoticism, ambition, posturing and pretension.
Recorded at the same time as its precursor but released two years later, 2017's Times Infinity, Vol. 2 unsurprisingly follows a similarly intimate, eclectic tone as the Dears' move away from the chamber pop of their early years into a leaner, more immediate approach. With Murray Lightburn (lead vocals and guitar) and Natalia Yanchak (keyboards and vocals) leading a sympathetic rhythm section (guitarist Patrick Krief, bassist Roberto Arquilla, and drummer Jeff Luciani) augmented by a handful of session musicians, Times Infinity, Vol.
If you’ve ever witnessed a tornado, one of the most telling signs of looming danger and destruction is the chartreuse green sky that precedes the storm. There is a lyric on t he Dears’ new album, Times Infinity Volume Two, that adeptly captures the hazardous feeling of looking out at the sky during the calmer moments of a storm, knowing things are bad and you’re definitely not emerging on the other side yet. “Come in before the moment exhausts our love,” sings Murray Lightburn on “1998,” as a dark, plucky bass rhythm pulses beneath like an irregular heartbeat.