Montreal's often-chilly climate is apparently perfect for incubating intriguing bands. The Arcade Fire has received plenty of acclaim in Canada as well as south of the border, and the Dears are equally notable: an ambitious pop combo with a penchant for big melodies, dramatic juxtapositions and pungent lyrics. Singer and lead provocateur Murray Lightburn has been known to employ trombones, euphoniums, clavinets, French horns and plenty of other instruments that aren't in the arsenal of the average garage band. Fortunately, though, his production skills prevent his group's work from sinking into bombast, even on projects as weighty as Protest, an EP recently reissued by the Ace Fu imprint. While this three-song suite is persistently doomy and apocalyptic (the disc concludes with the cheerily titled "No Hope Before Destruction"), Lightburn infuses the piece with a palpable grandeur that lifts its downbeat theme to impressive heights. The Dears, who are joined at the Lounge by buzz bands Marjorie Fair and the Shout Out Louds, make Montreal seem cool in more ways than one.
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