Release Date: Sep 4, 2012
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
“Just ‘cause you’re crazy doesn’t mean that you’re free. ” This is in the first verse of “The Theory Of Relativity,” the track that opens Stars’ sixth studio release since their debut in 2001. Craziness doesn’t mean freedom—acting like a lunatic, screaming at the top of your lungs and running down the street with no clothes on may feel ‘free,’ in the sense of being loosened from a social contract, but acting free also gets you locked up in your city’s version of Bedlam.
Over the course of a decade-plus of releasing albums, Stars have become the kind of band that is easy to forget. Not because they make forgettable music, far from it. They've maintained such a high level of quality for so long that they've become a reliable source of intelligent pop music with a giant, beating heart that has maybe, in a way, become too reliable for people who need to hear a new thing all the time.
STARS open up for Metric November 24 at the Air Canada Centre. See listing. Rating: NNNN On their sixth full-length, the Stars haven't drastically reinvented themselves, but somehow the hooks and sounds seem much bigger and better than before. The synth pop bits are lusher than ever, and when the band rocks out, the results are bombastic and unexpectedly aggressive without clashing with their delicate melodies.
StarsThe North[ATO; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; September 6, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweet“Well, the only way I see this happening is in an extended ride north…” The line above is the first thing you hear on Stars’ new album The North, and it is a quote from the 1967 documentary “The Idea of North” by Glenn Gould. The film was commissioned by the Canadian government to commemorate the country’s centennial and dealt with Gould’s observations of isolation and solitude. Seeing as how Stars have dealt, in one way or another, with these same ideas over the course of their musical career, it makes perfect sense for this to be the first thing we hear, as opening track “The Theory of Relativity” kicks off its own variation of the bouncy synth-pop that the band has played around with for years.
Most people get married because they want to settle down. They think they’ve found someone who they can spend the rest of their lives with, someone who will make life easier and not harder. They want contentment. There’s always a chance that things will backfire. People lie, people cheat ….
Stars have always written about love, but they're equally fixated on time-- how it passes, how we wish we could slow it, how the past and present relate to each other, and how it marches on towards infinity. On "Reunion", a highlight from 2004's career high Set Yourself on Fire, Torquil Campbell's pitiful narrator looks back at his teenage years and pleads for the chance to return to those days to fix a broken relationship (but, primarily and somewhat selfishly, "to be young and wild and free"). "Ageless Beauty" from the same album attempts to bottle eternity as Amy Millan steadily consoles, "Time will hold its promise/ We will always be a light.
“Take the weakest thing in you / And then beat the bastards with it,” Torquil Campbell sings on The North‘s “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It”, distilling his band’s greatest strength into a single inspiring line. In the best Stars songs, weakness isn’t overcome, but rather fetishized and magnified into theater. Since the band’s beginnings over a decade ago, Stars have beaten the bastards with regret, unrequited love, and, perhaps trickiest of all, an unusually affecting nostalgia.
Stars have always thrived on thin, if sweetly delivered, song conceits, with leadman Torquil Campbell often doing his best to channel Postal Service-era Ben Gibbard on tracks with such cloying, clunky titles as “Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” and “I Died So I Could Haunt You. ” The Canadian dream-pop outfit makes absolutely no apologies for their oversized romanticism, however, proudly wearing their sugarcoated hearts on their sleeves, the interplay between Campbell and vocalist/guitarist Amy Millan suggesting a kind of breathless, theatrical teenage dialogue. Now with six albums under their belt, Stars have gone from simply embracing their drippy, sentimental music to full-on bear-hugging it.
‘The North’ is Stars’ sixth – yes that’s right, sixth – album, and even if you weren’t a fan of their last couple, there’s definitely going to be something for you here. As soon as the synth kicks in for opener ‘The Theory Of Relativity’, you know you’re in for a treat.Amy Millan has said in interviews that this is to be a more hopeful, joyful, upbeat album. And whilst it does have that bouncy pop feel to it in places, as in the annoyingly-named ‘Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It’ or the lush, much better-named single ‘Backlines’, where it excels is really in its quieter, more delicate moments.Just listen to Torquil Campbell sing “sleep is my friend and my rival” in an almost hushed tone.
An album rich in storytelling and atmosphere, warm beneath its chilly edges. Jude Clarke 2012 For their sixth album, Toronto’s Stars set out to make a record about “here… where we live”, to “tell Northern stories”. The aptly titled result sees the band producing a set that is rich with a sense of storytelling, sentiment and atmosphere, warm beneath its songs’ occasionally chilly edges.
On their sixth studio album, Montreal’s indie synth-pop ambassadors Stars show some pride in their homeland and in their musical repertoire. With the help of ATO on this side of the border, Stars combine what they do best: moody synth-rooted dance songs and sugary indie pop. The album starts with the quote “The only way I see this happening is in an extended ride North,” said by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, and Stars gets the trip started with a dance party.
At times on Stars' new record, The North, you can practically see the day-glow scrunchie in Amy Millan's hair and the acid wash of Torquil Campbell's Canadian tuxedo. It's not just the '80s that have come back to haunt our dynamic duo, it's Debbie Gibson/Tiffany mall pop. But when the band keep these embellishments and ornamentations to a minimum, the songs soar in fantastically familiar, and occasionally genuinely surprising, ways.
Despite the quintet's aging membership, mortgages, marriages, and kids, Montreal-based Stars continues its quest for love only to get caught up in the turmoil of romance. Sixth platter The North returns to the group's twentysomething love songs, weighted by classic duets between vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. "The Theory of Relativity" opens with pop synth swirls and a drum machine, recalling overly dancey fifth LP The Five Ghosts.
Although the enshrinement of pop continues to carry discrepancies, disagreements and discord, there’s little disenchantment with its overall spectrum of style. The catchy effect, the easy ability in being able to revel in heart-warming subjects and the combination of 80s influence into the brand new 2010s we live in, is a remarkable thing. Stars have quietly enjoyed success behind a fortitude of strong pop hooks and an ensemble cast of musicians that are all well aware of what magic pop can deploy.