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CD of The Week

Week of 10/26/15

    The Dears - Times Infinity Volume One (Dangerbird)

    Times Infinity Volume One is an album plainly about love. Granted, this is The Dears we're talking about, who regularly traffic in emotionally wrenching, melodically soaring rock, so this isn't exactly the newest territory for them. What's new, however, is a romance and optimism present like we've not seen from them before. (Not for nothing is the album cover image a shot of a couple--presumably married core members Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak--embracing.) Opening track "We Lost Everything" sets the table, its throbbing drumline and bubbling synths serving as an invitation, almost like a four-minute drumroll building to Lightburn and Yanchak screaming "I never wanted to do this alone!" It's a thrilling start and a potent summary of the album to come.

    Then comes "I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fall." It's huge from the start, with its crashing riff and Lightburn demanding to know "Whose side are you on?" It sounds like an ode to loneliness in The Dears' typically gigantic fashion, until he sings, "There's nothing that compares to, when I'm holed up in here with you." It's sweeping and apocalyptic as they intone "It's not safe" repeatedly until the chorus, about lovers holding on to each other amidst a terrible world. "To Hold and Have" is another great song, coming immediately after and slowing things down. It's a breather, but no less powerful a moment, held aloft by gentle strings and one of Lightburn's finest vocal performances ever. Together, both songs are an effective one-two punch setting the tone of the set.

    I'd say that's a highlight, but much of Times Infinity Volume One is on that level. "Face of Horrors" is another high point, a chamber pop masterpiece bolstered by a beautiful harmony that uses reverb to haunting effect. Meanwhile, "Here's to the Death of All the Romance" is less a revisiting of "22: The Death of All the Romance" from No Cities Left than it is a subversion of that song's themes, trading the earlier song's heartbreak for defiance.

    The one low point on the album could have been the closer, "Onward and Downward," with Yanchak front and center. However, for all her limits as a vocalist, there's a directness and honesty she possesses that fits perfectly here. It also makes sense for her to have the last word, a plaintive plea for an involved, reciprocal partner. ("I'm just a harmless soul who wants to love you more/Don't make this harder than before.") Yet, this song is also a reminder that love is as temporary as we are. After all, this superb album ends as it must, with Yanchak singing, "In the end, we all die alone."
    Review by Andre Bennett

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