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Archive for the ‘The Dears’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: THE DEARS-Live on QTV (2008).

The Dears are a wonderful band from Montreal. They create epochal noise, make concerts that are unholy messes (and yet totally amazing) and they seem perpetually about to self-destruct.   Murray Lightburn, the singer and song writer of the band is has an amazing voice and great songwriting skills.  They create full blown orchestral rock, but they’re not afraid to totally rock out (see the 20-minute live version of “Pinned Together Falling Apart” on their live album.)

These three tracks are acoustic and totally stripped down.  It’s just Murray on guitar and his bandmate (and wife) Natalia singing backing vocals.  These three songs come from the album Missiles.  Although I am partial to their over the top renditions, these stripped down version showcase how great the songs themselves are.

Dream Job” is a slow track with limited backing vocals.  “Lights Out” is a bit faster with some really great chord changes.  And finally, “Money Babies” is an amazing duet, really letting Natalia harmonize brilliantly.

You can hear more songs from The Dears at All Songs Considered.

[READ: January 11, 2011] “Meet You at the Door”

This is easily my favorite story in The Walrus in years, possibly ever.  It’s also one of my favorite stories that I’ve read in a long, long time.  It has so much to recommend it: it is wonderfully paced and it is really engaging.

The basic story is of a twenty-something black man who must travel to Gull Lake, Saskatchewan to start a job at a railroad junction house.  But that simple plot doesn’t do any justice to the multifaceted aspects of the story’s construction.

First, the position requires excellence in typing (relays that come from the main train location must be typed on an old manual typewriter in carbon.  With no typos.  And they must be typed fast!  Split second decisions must be made and any errors could be fatal.  So the employee must be smart and skilled (there’s a 75% failure rate on the test).

When the narrator passes the test he must ship off to Gull Lake that night.  And, this being “in the age of dinosaurs” the narrator is carrying his portable typewriter, a guitar and a huge afro.  And he needs a place to stay.  Fast.

He’s obviously not well received at first, until we meet the lady who will take him in.  And she is the second great aspect of this story.  She is a wonderful character (and could easily have many more pages written about her, but Hill is concise which really moves the story along).  She sizes him up, deems him worthy, and lets him have the spare room. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STARS-Do You Trust Your Friends (2007).

Stars released Set Yourself on Fire in 2005. It was a surprisingly good and catchy pop album from a band I hadn’t heard of before. It was lyrically downbeat, and yet the choruses were sweeping and grand. A great paradox of a record that I liked very much.

Well, they gave the master tapes to a whole bunch of their Canadian band friends and had them remix or redo the songs. This collection is interesting in that the collective work is very strong and everybody makes a remix that is fresh and interesting. I didn’t know too many of the bands before hand (only The Dears) so the sound was pretty new to me. The Dears do an interesting thing with their track: they split their song into two songs, since the original had two distinctive parts. It’s a fun thing to hear.

Most of the roster comes from the Arts & Crafts label, so that may give you an idea of the sound; they include some dance remixes, some indie rock remixes and some straight ahead pop ones. Obviously, the original is better if only for the overall continuity, but this is an interesting and enjoyable listen in and of itself.

[READ: June 30, 2008] “Suicide by Fitness Center”

Joyce Carol Oates must talk in her sleep, and she must have a dictation service that records all of it. (more…)

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