No Cities Left is the best Brit-pop album of 2004 -- only the Dears are from Montreal, not Manchester. But don't hold that against them: The symphonic sextet is human and needs to be loved, just like everybody else. In fact, they wanna be adored, and should be. Their new disc is heart-stopping in its beauty, honesty and breadth. Morrissey-worshiping, Graham Coxon-stalking frontman Murray Lightburn leads his band screaming and quivering through eleven exhilaratingly dark songs, influenced as much by '60s soul as by '80s U.K. pop. After beginning with urgent, cello-driven post-punk, "Expect the Worst/'Cos She's a Tourist" gracefully transforms into a horn-lubed Dark Side of the Moon outtake. The dub-flavored "Postcard From Purgatory" transforms from spacey instrumental to stately ballad before ending in a feedback-swathed freakout. No Cities Left is a work of unabashed intensity, theatricality and passion.
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