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CD of The Week

Week of 5/18/20

    The Dears - Lovers Rock (Dangerbird)

    To put a slightly different spin on the age-old saying, one should never judge an album by its title. For their eighth studio album, The Dears ditch the charming vibrancy of their earlier works to focus on some of the darker necessities of the world. "To say, 'I know what you're going through. And I'm hearing you, and I'm with you.' That's what the music is supposed to do," says singer Murray Lightburn. That right there acts as the mission statement for Lovers Rock. Blending their usual mélange of orchestral pop-rock with a darker world view is an interesting perspective to take. It ultimately breeds an album that feels emotionally uneven yet complete. Sounds about right for the current times we all find ourselves in.

    "Heart of an Animal" gets things started off and is the kind of straight-up indie-pop we've come to expect from the band. The highs of that song wear off fast as we dig deeper into the album. Songs like "Instant Nightmare", "I Know What You're Thinking and It's Awful", and "The Worst In Us" act as early signifiers of the dark road ahead.

    But even in the deepest depths, there are bright spots. "Stille Lost" is a standout that, while still wearing its doom and gloom proud, features some undeniably wonderful musical moments (including a blistering tenor sax solo from Jake Clemons, on loan from the E Street Band). "No Place on Earth" blends alt-rock distortion with a rich cushion of strings that just barely make it atop the layered mix.

    It's hard not to imagine the whole record retroactively working as a concept album that aims to lend a voice and music to the inner monologues of those quarantined. "Well nobody wants to die / But does anyone want to live / Another day going through the motions," Lightburn sings on "Is This What You Really Want?" And, after listening through it a few times, it soon becomes clear the Lovers Rock is not an album meant to answer questions or even to be so bold as to ask them. Rather it exists to let the listener know that they are not alone in their feelings of doubt, anger, and isolation. Is it uplifting? Not really. Is it necessary? Absolutely.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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