Stars

The Five Ghosts

Vagrant

Jun 25, 2010 Issue #31 - Spring 2010 - Joanna Newsom Bookmark and Share


One of the most interesting facets of Stars is their near-complete lack of evolution. Flaunting their sad and sassy pop that appears to have emerged fully formed from day one, the Canadian five-piece theatrically redefines cool with tales of love, death, and life in between. Their fifth studio full-length The Five Ghosts is another album in a long line of works that are sure to make teens weep and well-adjusted adults hopelessly nostalgic.

A theme album about a relationship's dying gasps, opener "Dead Hearts'" cinematic intentions never quite meets the power of Set Yourself on Fire's opening track, "Your Ex-Lover is Dead." However, the 11-song cycle's tender moments are played to full emotional impact by lead vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. In one of the more telling moments, Campbell asks, "Will you actually be anyone?" —the kicker being that he and Millan have successfully managed to be nearly everyone. Like a latter-day Juliet, Millan channels the aimless confusion of "Never Been Good With Change" and unbridled optimism in "Wasted Daylight," both with equal conviction. 

Campbell's vocal contributions are significantly more understated, particularly "The Last Song Ever Written," which never quite gets off the ground despite assistance from a few helpful synths. Meanwhile, "He Dreams He's Awake," in all its slow-burning glory, feels more like a stopgap between Millan-fronted tracks. But when he joins Millan during The Five Ghosts' duets, real magic is made. "We Don't Want Your Body," the token "sexy" track, smolders under their aloof chemistry. Channeling ennui left over from In Our Bedroom After the War, Millan and Campbell transcend the melodrama of "I Died So I Could Haunt You," transforming the song's over-the-top sentiments into a triumphant paean. By final track "Winter Bones," the relationship has given up the ghost, Campbell is reduced to a choral whisper, and Millan is left to give it a stripped-down send-off. Get your hankies ready. (www.youarestars.com)

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