SOUNDTRACK: THE DEARS-Degeneration Street (2011).
I’ve loved The Dears for a long time now. And yet with every new album I feel like I have to prepare myself for what’s to come. And with every release I’m a little disappointed when I first play it. Maybe for the next release I’ll realize what my problem is–The Dears do not stand up to cursory, casual listening. They demand attention. If you put them on as background music, you miss everything. So when I finally gave Degeneration Street some attention, I realized how great it is.
The Dears write emotional songs that are fairly straightforward. But the magic of their music comes in the layers of ideas and sounds that they put on each track. And of course, there’s Murray Lightburn’s voice. He sounds like Damon Albarn if Damon Albarn could sustain a note for a long time–could emote with his voice. Now I happen to like Damon Albarn quite a lot, but Lightburn can really just out-sing him. It’s wonderful.
“Omega Dog” opens with an electronic drumbeat, eerie keyboards and skittery guitars. When the vocals come in–falsettoed and earnest, you don’t anticipate the full harmonies in the forthcoming chorus that lead to an almost R&B sound. Not bad for the first 80 seconds of a song. That the song is actually 5 minutes long and by minute 3, it sounds like an entirely different song is even more testament to the versatility of The Dears (check out the harpsichord solo that more or less ends the song).
“5 Chords” is a chugging anthem, a song with potential to be a hit (but which of course never will). I find myself constantly singing the infectious chorus of “Blood”: “Since I was a baby I have always been this way; I could see you coming from a million miles away.” Or the excellent chorus of “Thrones” “Plucking our eyes out, turning to stone, give up on heaven, give up the throne.”
“Lamentation” mixes things up with a slower pace and backing vocals that come straight out of Pink Floyd (any era really, but probably more of their later albums). It adds an amazing amount of depth. “Galactic Tides” has more Floydian stuff–the guitar solo (and the instrumental break) are really out of mid 70s Floyd–more backing vocals again).
Follow all of this intensity with the super poppy “Yesteryear”. It’s got an upbeat swing to it: happy bouncy chords and an inscrutable chorus: “What’s the word I’m looking for; It starts with ‘M’ and ends with ‘Y'” It’s followed by the more sinister “Stick w/Me Kid,” in which Lightburn shows off his bass range. There’s an awesome guitar riff in “Tiny Man,” simple and mournful that sticks with you long after it’s over.
The last couple of songs don’t really live up to the excitement of the first ten or so. But the final song brings back the drama, with a swelling chorus and soaring vocals. The Dears have managed to do it again, an emotional album that comes really close to being a concept album yet with none of the pretensions that that implies.
[READ: July 13, 2011] Five Dials Number 16
Five Dials Number 16 is a brief Christmas Present from Five Dials. The issue even seems longer than it is because the last ten pages are photos from the Five Dials launch party in Montreal. The photo essay, titled In Montreal, includes local scenery and (unnamed) people photographed by ANNIKA WADDELL and SIMON PROSSER.
That leaves only 7 pages of text: The Editor’s Note, a look at London, a Christmas Poem and a short story from Anton Chekov. And there’s another cool illustration from JULIE DOUCET
CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor
Taylor thanks Montreal for their warm welcome (despite the crash course in what Wind Chill actually means). He also hopes we enjoy the Christmas offerings contained within: the traditional Christmas poem and the Chekov story. (more…)
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