Stars

The North

ATO

Sep 07, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue Bookmark and Share


Cinematic melancholy? Widescreen romanticism? Yup, must be another Stars album. The Montréal, Canada-based group's sixth full-length finds them treading on some very familiar ground. As with previous works, the quintet's output still hinges on three basic concepts: death is approaching ("Do You Want to Die Together?"), bitterness is inevitable ("A Song is a Weapon"), and love is both complicated and necessary (take your pick).

We're reminded of the band's narrow range when, in an attempt to lighten up the mood and aim to convey something beyond their "life is bitter, short, and full of torrid love affairs" wheelhouse, they manage to scrape the bottom of the lyrical barrel. "A Song is a Weapon" sputters along, predictably folding a metaphor about "slaying with a song" and "bullet in the gun" into a forgettable mid-tempo groove. Meanwhile, the opposite of emotional gravity is cheese, as evidenced by standout offender, "Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give it," a song so trite it should come with a cat-adorned motivational poster. (Couldn't they have fit an additional chorus reminding us "If you love something, let it go?")

On the flipside, vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan once again prove themselves to be exquisite character actors, effectively transforming into the wounded souls they sing about. "The Loose Ends Will Make Knots" in particular hinges on their talent for shape shifting, instrumentation pulled back to a single backbeat and synth line to better highlight the tender vocal lines. Elsewhere they slip through time to play the lost lovers of "Walls," voices lingering over mundane aspects of their youthful romantic history. ("We were children, we danced to 'Hand in Glove,'" Millan convincingly reminisces.) Ultimately, it's the strength of their convictions that elevates the autumnal musings of The North from mere electro-pop fancy to emotionally affecting tales of love, death, and everything in between. (www.starsthenorth.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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