While many of their early aughts Belle Province contemporaries have faded away, the Dears have pressed on, steadily swooning their way through four melodramatic full-lengths since the classic No Cities Left in 2003. Now, they're back with Times Infinity Volume Two, the followup to 2015's excellent Volume One.
Despite multiple lineup changes in recent years, Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak remain the emotional centre of the band, like lighthouse keepers for any hopeless indie-rock romantics at sea. This latest record, which plays with themes of commitment and devotion, is a defiant declaration that the Dears have no plans of letting that light go out.
The through-line from Volume One is more prominent vocal contributions from Yanchak, who sang lead on one of that record's best tracks, the haunting "Onward and Downward." The leadoff track for Volume Two, "Taking it to the Grave," sees Yanchak right back in fine form, with her distinctive vocals yielding to an extended guitar freak-out. As for the rest of Side A, "Of Fisticuffs" is a quintessentially maudlin Dears stomper, and future fan favourite "1998" is another reminder of all the things you should still love about this band. Not a bad start.
The back half of the record is a little more restrained and contemplative, with a resigned, weary feel that's reminiscent of their unjustly overlooked 2008 record Missiles. Album closer and Side B highlight "End of Tour" is a strangely hopeful and resonant song that finds Lightburn pleading, "Please don't go / I won't face this world without you." This could be a paean to his partner, or to his band, but the pure feeling it conveys encapsulates what has always been great about the Dears. Though the fanfare surrounding the band may have dwindled slightly, the heartfelt emotion they deliver has not. (Paper Bag)