I started writing this post ten months ago, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Dears’ Gang of Losers, a record that has always felt like a mirror, or more accurately, a kind of x-ray machine reflecting back to me the person I feel I am on the inside. Where 2003’s No Cities Left entertained me, Gang of Losers indoctrinated me as a lifelong Dears fan. Even in 2006, Gang of Losers sounded like a decision-making moment—the Dears had come to a junction in the road and had to choose a path forward. Though they never lost their penchant for sweeping, grandiose musical statements, emotionally and lyrically, the Dears were veering towards more cerebral, internalized songs, the kind that connected with the misfits and the geeks, like me.
Listening to a new Dears record all these years later still sounds like settling in to catch up with old friends. Times Infinity Volume Two (recorded at the same time as 2015’s Time Infinity Volume One) is described as the darker of the two records in the series, informed by a foreboding sense of unease, particularly during the album’s more meditative last half. Before you get to the sombre soulfulness of “Until Deathrow” and “I Love You Times Infinity”, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak treat listeners to an opening triumvirate of songs to rival any in their canon. “Taking It to the Grave” opens with sparse instrumentation to accompany Yanchak’s vocals before erupting into a delightful and unexpected full-blown band arrangement (imagine how a medley of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” and “Airbag” would sound). “All The Hail Marys” follows a similar pattern, this time a solemn organ alongside Lightburn’s singing that crescendos into hymn-like invocations. “Of Fisticuffs” is by far the funkiest Dears song since ever. Age, time, and family may be softening Lightburn’s heart, but it’s tightened his songwriting; both “Of Fisticuffs” and Side A closer “1998” are destined to go down as classics in Dears’ history.
Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak will be the first to admit that the road from Gang of Losers to the Times Infinity series has been anything but smooth, but was the right direction for the Dears. From the fraught and fractured pop of 2008’s Missiles to the full-on band assault of 2011’s Degeneration Street, the Dears’ trajectory has led them to fruitful and musically fulfilling fields. The Dears sound as exciting and fresh as ever on Times Infinity Volume Two. May they go on making their gorgeously maudlin music forever.