Stars: The North

Stars, The NorthStars: The North
Canada’s indie-pop darlings Stars are back with their sixth full-length record, North. Those from certain parts of Canada may enjoy a couple of area references, like Montreal’s Habitat ’67, an iconic and unique apartment complex originally built as a pavilion for Expo ’67 (and used as the Olympic athlete’s residence in Blades of Glory) on the cover and the eleventh track named “The 400,” presumably after Ontario’s highway from the bustling city of Toronto to cottage country and remote towns in the north. The soft, sleepy, somewhat sad song doesn’t include any of the head-on-the-steering-wheel-level frustration of being stuck in the 400’s common summer traffic jams to summer cottages and campgrounds. It paints a beautiful picture of driving back to an old home, presumably in the cottage off-season (because I’ve been in those summer traffic jams and it’s not pretty, but also because the lyrics mention putting the heat on early.)

This album has more synth than I remembered from past albums, notably on “Theory of Relativity,” though my Stars superfan sister Monica tells me that they have had some synth-pop tracks in the past. The North has the same soft vocals of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan that set Stars apart from other indie pop bands. Lyrics that tell a story and create a vivid picture in your mind have also returned for this record. The strings I fell in love with on older albums show up with some plucking in “A Song Is A Weapon,” though for the most part the songs feature guitars (with effects,) powerful drums, and bass. There is definite ’80s influence with the synthesizer.

Like past albums, two of the tracks begin with a sample of a man talking. Word of warning before you make one of their tracks a ringtone: My other sister set her phone to play “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” (off of 2004’s Set Yourself on Fire) as a ringtone, so every time someone called she’d hear a creepy man say “When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” Try explaining that to those around you. So unless you want a man taking about northbound trains, be careful with the version you choose of “Theory of Relativity” or “A Song Is a Weapon” as a ringtone.

“Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” says that “the world won’t listen to this song and the radio won’t play it,” but people really should take notice of it. It is catchy and has a peppy little hook; I found it was my standout track. “Do You Want to Die Together?” starts off like a ‘50s pop song but quickly gets modern with distorted guitars. “Progress” and “Theory of Relativity” have so much synthesizer that they could fit in with ‘80s movie soundtracks. If you like Stars, indie pop, synth pop, or just catchy tunes with narrative lyrics, you should check this album out.
Rating: 7.7/10
MP3: Stars “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl