on 19 November 2010
In some ways Stars' albums are signposts in the life of someone growing up. Nightsongs had teenage adolesence daydreams and first stirrings of romance and coping with the feelings this arouses. Heart has the person being a little wiser, a little older but still coming to terms with how to interact with people. Set Yourself On Fire and In Our Bedroom After The War were Stars in their early twenties, full of university fervour, anger and self-discovery. And now the Five Ghosts. Stars have grown up and have found a niche for themselves. The sound and emotion evoked in this album is of a more mature person looking back with a wistful smile at their experiences of life so far and being comfortable with who they have become. There's a fair share of 80's-esque riffs (especially in Wasted Daylight and Fixed) but rather than cheesy these fit right into the mood of the songs and you find yourself humming along with no regrets. This is an album which, despite its darker undercurrent, is a very positive experience. In some ways a perfect soundtrack for exploring an old European city in the autumn or winter sunshine. Stars at their best and very much recommended
'The Five Ghosts' is a beautiful recording. Canadian band Stars have a line
of fine albums stretching back behind them to their 2001 debut 'Nightsongs'.
They have always been musicians of imagination and vision. Melody and
emotion have rarely been such comfortable bedfellows, not least because
of the magic which Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell weave together with
their fine voices.
There are eleven tracks on their new release and the title is in many ways apt.
This is haunting music. With quiet footsteps it finds its way into your heart
and just won't go away (not that one would ever want it to!) There are some
truly lovely tunes in evidence here. Within a short while you find yourself
humming or singing along despite yourself.
Opening track 'Dead Hearts' is a dialogue of questions and answers
between Mr Campbell and Ms Millan whose simple folksy charm is given
greater substance through the delightful vocal harmonies and warmth
of the consummately crafted instrumental arrangement. Enchanting!
It's the balance between thematic simplicity, textural complexity and the
ability to tell a good tale which gives the band its unique and beguiling sound.
'I Died So I Could Haunt You' is a moving little three minute drama which leaves
powerful emotional ripples in its wake. A model of compositional economy.
'He Dreams He's Awake' begins as a slow-moving dirge which finds Mr Campbell
struggling to put one foot in front of the other. The claustrophobic atmosphere
wraps around him and us like a dense grey fog . Suffocating and strange.
In contrast 'Changes' is a reassuringly pretty tune delivered with charming
dead-pan poise by a sultry Ms Millan. Were it not for the uneasy shifting
minor key chords deep down in the mix it might almost be a pop song.
'How Much More' is almost frisky compared with all that we have heard so-far.
(For a couple of wayward moments Blondie came to mind!) I caught Mrs Wolf
dancing to it in the kitchen when she didn't think I was looking!
Now that the days are becoming noticeably shorter final track 'Winter
Bones' seems an entirely apt ending to this dark but captivating project.
'The Five Ghosts' may well be the ideal soundtrack to the cold,
wet and windy months ahead. Brrrrrr!