Stars – [Album]

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

With their fifth studio release, The Five Ghosts, Canadian band Stars align themselves once again with familiar themes and dark hooks to the band's previous efforts. The band's first full-length album since 2007's In Our Bedroom After the War, Ghosts channels the simplicity of the band's breakout disc, Set Yourself on Fire, and navigates similar terrain. While this produces some elegant tracks, Ghosts never quite captures the vocal magic between singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan that made Stars so powerful on the band's previous releases.

While themes of dreams, death, love, and loss all bubble to the surface of The Five Ghosts, lyrically the album proves that more complicated feelings lie below. The subject matter of “Dead Hearts” makes for a somewhat melancholy opener. The dialogue between the two singers rises and falls, so oddly haunting in its' lyrics that it’s hard to tell if the song is meant to be as uplifting as its' melody implies. The second half of the disc also slips into more solemn territory. “The Passenger” and “The Last Song Ever Written” serve up a gray sadness and “Winter Bones” brings the album to a gentle end that’s not quite as lovely as it should be.
Though the imagery may be ethereal, with their dance sensibilities, synth, and keyboard, Stars’ sound on this disc might best be described as retro new wave. “I Died So I Could Haunt You” particularly sounds like it could belong on an ‘80s soundtrack, and, while the lyrics on “We Don’t Want Your Body” may leave something to be desired (is this song about robots?), its' use of an organ-sounding electric keyboard may make it danceable enough not to matter. One wishes that this same dancey-ness had been applied to “He Dreams He’s Awake,” so that it might have been transformed into a track along the lines of Franz Ferdinand’s “Lucid Dreams,” rather than luring us into some ambient and hookless space.

While The Five Ghosts is a far from perfect album, the songs that work do so particularly well. "Changes" and "Wasted Daylight" make terrific use of Millan's arresting vocals. "Changes" seems to be part old standard, part "Celebration Guns" throwback, and "Wasted Daylight" finds Millan's voice powerfully delicate in delivering a bright, catchy chorus. The standout track may be "Fixed" though, which seems pulled from the Stars' catalogue – a very close cousin to "Ageless Beauty." All of that is fine enough, but what Ghosts is clearly missing is Stars' most powerful tool: the ageless beauty of Campbell and Millan's vocals intertwining.



Stars – “We  Don't Want Your Body” – The Five Ghosts


The Five Ghosts
is out now. Buy It here on Amazon .


Stars – [Album]

Tuesday, 07 August 2007

It’s been about two years since Stars set themselves on fire and attracted international attention with their Arts & Crafts debut, and that runaway success permeates every note of In Our Bedroom After The War. What’s immediately noticeable about the new album is that it isn’t more ambitious, it’s actually more laid back. Singer Amy Millan sounds far more comfortable in the delicate intimacy of both “The Night Starts Here” and “My Favourite Book,” and even goes so far as to invoke Debbie Harry’s trademark sigh on “Bitches In Tokyo,” showcasing the facility with which both she and her band are able to set a consistent mood and sustain it.

Unlike so many other bands that found fame around the same time as Stars (including Metric and Arcade Fire), this band knows that its strength is in its understatement and hence never attempts anything bombastic (the closest to a barn-burning single here is “Life 2: The Unhappy Ending” and it still sounds like a Smiths album cut rather than a Smiths single) and prefers to generate ambiance via tender and soft dynamics to entice and enthrall listeners rather than titillate and thrill them, and that makes In Our Bedroom After The War endearing; rather than follow their peers and try to rock out some grand, indulgent statement, Stars have accepted their fame gracefully and produced a worthy, unaffected follow-up without over-extending themselves.

More on Stars, including tour dates, check it here:

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