Under Review: Stars – The Five Ghosts

As part-time members of the Canadian powerhouse known as the Broken Social Scene, the Montreal quintet Stars have yet to break out in the ways that Scenesters Feist and Metric did a few years ago.  That’s certainly not for lack of creativity, as Stars’ 10 year career has been defined by a rather prolific outpour of tasteful and clever pop.  Sure, their 2004 Arts & Crafts debut, Set Yourself On Fire, got the group noticed, but they have yet to make an impact outside their small but devoted following.  Luckily, for fans both old and new, the band’s newest, The Five Ghosts, is a complete knockout.  Everything that charmed listeners on previous outings is done even better, and the set features songs that are as strong as any the band’s put out.  Lyrically, the album focuses on death and loss, though the music is either beautiful or playful enough to offset those weighty themes.  The interplay between trumpeter Torquil Campbell and guitarist Amy Millan is even more pronounced on The Five Ghosts than on prior albums, even when the two aren’t singing together.  Opener “Dead Hearts” does indeed find the duo trading verses, while the band takes on a delicate, almost classical mode and lines it with a synthy shimmer.  Another fine duet is found in the more (relatively) upbeat “I Died So I Could Haunt You,” which, if you think about it, is a creepily adorable sentiment.

That melding of macabre and attractive gives The Five Ghosts a slightly humorous quality, as if the band knows that these songs feature elements that shouldn’t be taken seriously.  Not that the band can’t be serious: in the pensive “The Last Song Ever Written,” Torq ponders just that, and it’s even more tragic than it sounds.  “We Don’t Want Your Body” is one of the more spiteful duets committed to record, and “How Much More” has Amy breaking up over a breakneck backbeat.  The Five Ghosts carries on a great tradition of featuring great songs that, once they’re examined, turn out to be horrifically dark and depressing.  Stars work the bait-and-switch extremely well, and the album is a sure bet for fans of peppy pop, morose musings, or any combination of the two.

Click HERE to stream The Five Ghosts (via NPR Music)

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~ by E. on June 21, 2010.

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