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The Dears 

Gang of Losers (Arts and Crafts)

Give Murray Lightburn credit for cojones. The easy thing for him to do would be to find an easy escape from all the "black Morrissey" comparisons that were beginning to box him in. Instead, the frontman of Montreal indie rockers the Dears has crafted his own answer to outsider anthems like "Shoplifters of the World Unite." In "Death or Life We Want You" he offers misfits a haven by declaring, in full Smithsian warble, "Nobody wants you/But we want you." Hell, even Mozzer probably wishes he'd made that offer.

The difference between Gang of Losers and its more intricate predecessors like last year's No Cities Left is immediacy; orchestral pomp has been abandoned in favor of a funkier, more rocking sound. But over-the-top majesty is still in the Dears' arsenal, and "Ballad of Humankindness" explores it to the fullest. "No one should have to live all of their life on their own," sings Lightburn, atop an Olympian chord progression that reaches transcendence when the band kicks in. Not for losers only.

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