Stars - The Five Ghosts
Montreal-based indie band Stars has two lead vocalists – Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan – and it’s to their credit that they’re able to pull off the boy-and-girl-trading-verses shtick without seeming contrived, cutesy, or overly twee. It’s hard to imagine ‘Dead Hearts,’ the opening number on The Five Ghosts, without this dynamic; it would still be a stirring, heartbreaking piece, but hearing a male and female voice singing it to each other gives the song a near-cinematic quality it would otherwise lack.
Only one other song on the album – ‘He Dreams He’s Awake,’ which features backup by what sounds like a tortured, depressed whale – comes close to capturing the mood and atmosphere created by ‘Dead Hearts.’ This would be a bad thing if the rest of the album wasn’t a piece of carefully-constructed electronic pop reminiscent of Postal Service’s Give Up or the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s recent It’s Blitz!
‘Wasted Daylight,’ ‘The Last Song Ever Written,’ and ‘How Much More’ would fit nicely on either of those albums, while ‘Fixed’ and ‘The Passenger’ hearken back to the heyday of ’80s synth-pop. ‘Changes,’ a doo-wop number, is another ’80s throwback, but only because it sounds uncomfortably close to Madonna’s dreadful ‘True Blue.’
Aside from that one bizarre misstep, The Five Ghosts is a stellar effort and has much to recommend it. Entertaining from start to finish, this could be the best thing Stars has ever produced. A lot of thought went into this album and it shows.
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