Stars – The Five Ghosts
Release Date: June 22, 2010
Record Label: Vagrant
Canadian indie-pop outfit Stars has a knack for making breaking up sound so good. Throughout the past decade, the quintet has turned bitter heartache into delectable pop numbers, charming fans with stellar albums such as undisputed favorites Heart and Set Yourself On Fire. The band looks to continue this trend with their Vagrant debut, The Five Ghosts, by dabbling in the afterlife, armed with 11 tracks that showcase dynamite duel vocals, infectious electro-pop melodies, and somber numbers.
The album begins like a beautiful waltz, as the elegant “Dead Hearts” features gorgeous give-and-take vocals between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, and the strings combined with Pat McGee’s excellent percussion provide the cherry on top. Millan takes the reins on the electro-pop “Wasted Daylight,” while Campbell rejoins her on the intimate “I Died So I Could Haunt You.” The band lets loose with the incredibly infectious first single, “Fixed.” Chris Seligman’s keys pierce through the track as Millan’s voice once again takes control. Following that is the somewhat danceable, somewhat industrial “We Don’t Want Your Body.” Subtle keynotes shine underneath the bombastic electric drumbeat as the song revels in its upbeat nature.
But it’s not all pep on the band’s fifth studio album, as The Five Ghosts carries a theme that lies in morbid curiosity. The aforementioned “Dead Hearts” and “I Died So I Could Haunt You” follows this, as does the haunting “He Dreams He’s Awake,” which showcases the quintet in their natural surroundings – deep, dark, and brooding musical numbers that rely on theatrical musicianship. Campbell’s voice is remarkable on this track, as he is backed up by Millan’s eerie backup vocals. “The Last Song Ever Written” is soaked in the kind of musical melodrama that makes Stars so good, while “How Much More” is a fast-paced number that serves as the perfect contrast to Millan’s airy vocals.
Throughout The Five Ghosts, Millan is the centerpiece, as her voice carries this album. She doesn’t stay in one tempo, instead her vocals range from patient (“Changes” and “Winter Bones”) to urgent (“How Much More” and “We Don’t Want Your Body”). This is Millan’s album, so it comes as no surprise that some of the tracks suffer when her voice is absent. In the end, The Five Ghosts stacks up nicely with the other albums in Stars’ remarkable canon. Despite an increase in electro-pop and uptempo pieces, the vibe is still very much Stars, as the album, just like its predecessors, maintains that calm, mellow sound. The Five Ghosts is the band’s most consistent album yet, and their best since 2005’s Set Yourself On Fire. Just like that album, it explores the devastation of failed love, but this time they sprinkle in some optimism. Love may kill you, but it’s something you don’t want to live without.