On Times Infinity Volume One, the Dears' songs vary in terms of depth and intricacy, but each is a fully realized narrative, layered with wild intricacy. Murray Lightburn's guitar lines bloom in measured expanses and unspool in frenzied bursts; Natalia Yanchak's fingers dance across the keys like stones skipping across a pond; lyrics burst with secret revelations and wry truths.
Not every track is trying to shatter salt-lick hearts. There's a delectable, macabre humour about love at work throughout, particularly on the lead single, "Here's to the Death of All Romance," and the jangly, album-closing crooner "Face of Horrors." A funky lilt belies the tension of Lightburn and Yanchak's blended vocals on the taut "We Lost Everything."
"To Hold and Have" features Lightburn at his most vocally restrained, and everything about the instrumentation works. The swell of the strings, the dreamy guitar line — all of it adds a sorrowful warmth to the fraught, tragic romance of lines like, "This life that we fought so hard for / Well, I want more to hold and have." Like your new favourite anthology of short stories — think Alice Munro meets Edgar Allen Poe — Times Infinity Volume One is a magnificent testament to the human heart in all of its complexity.
It opens with the rattling urgency of “We Lost Everything”, with a clanging guitar part that shatters restlessly over the skittery rhythm. “I Used to Pray for the Heavens to Fall” sounds like a more traditional Dears song, heavy on the melodrama and with a powerful vocal by Murray Lightburn. It’s shifting dynamics from theatrical rock to jittery funk/pop is an interesting musical contrast. “To Have and To Hold” features a lovely string arrangement over the dramatic lovelorn imagery.
“You Can’t Get Born Again” is one of the best tracks, thanks to a chilly keyboard and a new wave vibe over a loping beat. It does fade away rather suddenly, though, as if it runs out of steam. “Here’s to the Death of All the Romance” harkens back to their classic track “22 and the Death of All Romance” from their brilliant 2003 album No Cities Left. It doesn’t quite have the same profound sense of drama, and it fades away a bit too quickly; it’s here and gone before it really makes much of an impact. “Someday All This Will Be Yours” is an acoustic-based number with one of Lightburn’s strongest vocals on the album. By and large, though, he’s more remote than on past Dears albums. He’s a powerhouse vocalist, and while that strength comes through at times, the moments are fleeting. There’s nothing like the yearning brilliance of “Meltdown in A Major” from the band’s stunning 2008 album Missiles. Times Infinity Volume One feels more detached overall, less piercingly direct and emotional.