It must be hard being Canadian indie pop outfit Stars, constantly envisioning and executing melancholy tinted, romance heavy pretty songs since 1998, constantly sketching and reinforcing the line between too much twee, too much pop, or too much sentimentality for a seemingly perfect mix of catchy and feeling. Luckily, their fifth full length, The Five Ghosts
shows that the band has not lost their magic touch, and rather than going for dramatic revisions, Stars merely went for a lightening of effects in music, relying on the beauty of the songs themselves to carry their latest album.
From the opening, soft melody of "Dead Hearts" and the interplay of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan's angelic voice, Stars instantly capture their signature ground of melody that breaks heart, sadness that lingers at the end of each line. The quiet opening soon unravels into the full swirl of the lush, textured chorus of synths and strings, but still hovers with the eerie mood of the song. "Wasted Daylight" is a classic Amy fronted pop gem, hopeful with a bright heart, a light in her voice, an eagerness in the chorus that carries across the song.
The band takes a different turn with "We Don't Want Your Body", filled with a more urgent need that manifests in the frenzied melody beneath the fast melody of the song, and Amy's vindictive chorus: "You said you sold me ecstasy/So you can have some sex with me/But I don't want your body," delivered in her childish voice makes the tension of the song all the more obvious.
They return to minimalistic melody driven, intimate songs with "Changes," a sparse arrangement of strings and fuzzy synths overshadowed by the vulnerability of Amy's voice, the simple, longing of wanting and fearing the inevitable changes. "The Passenger" follows with a similar tone, a dim and flickering series of scenes and interactions that's a delight to hear unfold.
Though "Fixed" is a little glittering pop gem in its own right, no pretension and all the elements of indie pop perfection, none of the songs from The Five Ghosts
quite aspire to be the masterpieces of Stars's past, no instantly admirable versions of "Heart" or "Elevator Love Letter". And while the fuzzy misgivings of "Winter Bones" might hint at the grand arrangements from before, a few of the slower tracks lack the glossy beauty that Stars excel at. -laura yan
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