The Dears

Times Infinity, Vol. 2

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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. 2 does have its moments of grand-scale pop, most notably the lead-off track "Taking It to the Grave" and "Guns and Knives." But just as often, the album dips its toes into minimalist R&B ("All the Hail Marys," "Nothing in It for Me, Nothing in It for You"), bluesy rock & roll ("Of Fisticuffs"), dance-friendly pop ("1998"), moody self-examination ("End of Tour"), or tongue-in-cheek romantic kiss-offs ("I'm Sorry That I Wished You Dead," which features a backing vocal that on closer inspection turns out to be Lightburn repeatedly murmuring "F**k You"). The production, overseen by Lightburn, is clean and uncluttered throughout, with his lead vocals occasionally showing the influence of David Bowie in his soul boy period, and the songs manage to sound sincere while indulging in a fair amount of bittersweet humor or blunt claims of romantic disappointment. If this isn't quite as strong an offering as Vol. 1, which seems to have received a better set of songs, in terms of performances and the group's sonic signature, this is a strong piece of work that reminds listeners that the Dears have few peers on the Montreal music scene.

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