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Stars – The North

Stars last album The Five Ghosts, was my 8th favorite album of 2010.  It was the first time I had heard of the Canadian band who has been steadily turning out albums over the past decade.  Their new album The North marks their 6th full length album over that time span.

The album continues with the electro/pop vibe that Stars is known for.  The difference here is that they are shooting for a harder edged synth drive, closer to bands like Metric and Cut Copy, especially on songs like The Theory of Relativity, Progress and Hold On When You Get Love, And Let Go When You Give It (my favorite track on the album).  This is the tone of The North, an album that is shooting for hits rather than a completely focused effort.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Stars are at their best on Backlines, Through the Mines, and especially Lights Changing Colour which taps into that dreamy, haunting soundscape.  They all feature female singer Amy Millan’s delicate, yet soaring vocals.  For me she’s what made The Five Ghosts one of my favorites, and she’s what’s the best here.  At times Stars almost sounds and feels like a modern day Jefferson Starship, alternating between Millan and lead singer Torquil Campbell.  One listen to the title track The North, featuring Campbell, and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.  A modern day Miracles if there ever was one.  The problem is that Millan and Campbell are splitting the album up between the two of them, instead of working together to create an album as a whole.  A Song is a Weapon is the best song on the album that shows the two working together to create a glorified pop gem.

My gripes are small with The North.  It’s still a quite varied and dynamic album that has a lot of peaks and valleys.  The problem in attempting to review an album is that you need some sort of frame of reference and for me that is The Five Ghosts, which as I said was one of my favorite albums of two years ago.  The Five Ghosts was a hauntingly beautiful album that was pretty much perfect from start to finish.  That’s hard to follow up, and The North seems to do that at times, while also taking off in to more upbeat and fast-paced territory.  It’s definitely worth a listen, and their are some great tracks on the album.  Stars is definitely a band that is always going to be on my radar.

Grade: B+