Writing about music is difficult, I find. But in case there’s a fan-in-waiting out there like I was, who hasn’t yet fallen in love with Stars, this post if for you. I decided to write about them when I realised that I keep coming back to them again and again. It was like that with all of my favorites—Nine Inch Nails, The Magnetic Fields, Placebo, Something for Kate, The Decemberists, Goldfrapp, The Knife—the musical equivalent of unputdownable. I have to admit that, just like these gems, I now have no objectivity when it comes to Stars. It’s quite simply the best indie pop I’ve ever heard.
I think I heard of Stars via eMusic, or maybe Pitchfork. I got Set Yourself on Fire, but I didn’t warm up to it immediately. The band first caught my attention after that, in a radio interview on NPR. It was one of those moments when I realised—the name sounds familiar… oh right, I have one of their albums. That was when I really started listening. Then I made another connection—in the interview they were being asked questions about their latest record, In Our Bedroom After the War—and I remembered some negative press about the new album not stacking up to the previous one. On the strength of the interview, I decided to grab it anyway.
The doubters were wrong. The new one’s awesome. I was cleaning the house one day when it came up in iTunes. I actually had to stop cleaning (not easy for me). Since then I can’t stop listening to anything they do. It starts with a melody or some instrumentation that I just want to hear again, and again. Then, as I play it over, I start hearing more of the story in each song, rather than just lyrical sound bites. There is so much in these tracks. An instant emotional connection, but sober and thoughtful on return visits. I challenge you to listen for more than a few minutes and not sense the introspection beneath the bright chords, the melancholy in the instrumentals, and the elegance of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan’s vocal tag-teaming.
Stars, for me, form a bridge between the lushness of open-hearted pop and the gravity of insight into the world of relationships and politics that I usually associate with harder-edged or lo-fi sounds. Their sound is meaningful without being ironic in order to get there (like the Silversun Pickups, if you’ve been following their recent EP and album debut). Stars is sincere, but catchy. I don’t know how they do that. You wouldn’t think one would follow from the other. I’m listening to Heart as I write. More than anything I’m wishing I could see them perform. Well, it’s getting warmer, and Montréal’s not that far away…