One comment that really frustrates me goes along the lines of “This band’s new
album doesn’t sound like them at all.” This comment leaves me asking, “Well, if
they don’t sound like themselves, then who does?” A new album may not sound
like a previous one, but a band’s sound changes. Just ask Beck. So, does The
Five Ghosts sound like our favorite Set-Yourself-on-Fire–Stars? Not really. But
does it sound like them? Of course.
On The Five Ghosts, Stars drop the saxes and trumpets and pick up some
synthesizers with the volume knobs stuck on mellow. Amy Milan and Torquil
Campbell still find their groove as they kick (or gently push, rather) Ghosts of to
a great start with Dead Hearts, which should be grouped with some of their best
stuff. For me, Stars falter for the first time in their career on Wasted Daylight,
where the similarities to alt-poppers Metric are almost unbearable (check out
Help I’m Alive and compare). However, Stars return to some of their best on
I Died So I Could Haunt You. More complaints would be raised about Fixed
pertaining to how Stars may be looking to duplicate ‘05 hit Ageless Beauty if the
song just wasn’t so catchy. We Don’t Want Your Body picks up the tempo before
the quite poor He Dreams He’s awake. The album slumps on Changes where
there is a bit too much Amy Milan, who really works better with Campbell than
without him. A sequence of surprisingly memorable tracks close out the album,
with The Passengers being a personal favorite, where above point is verified
about Milan and Campbell. The cute The Last Song Ever Written still leaves
space on the album for an up-tempo How Much More and an unfortunately
forgettable Winter Bones.
Stars’ sound is still showing signs of healing after the loss of the brass section.
However, we are dealing with Stars, a band who have a knack for writing neat
albums, ones that complete thoughts and feel more natural from beginning to
end as they hit their highs and lows with no sense of urgency.
Stars are slowly confirming themselves as some of the best indie-poppers in
the business as fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene have started to misfire.
Another all-around display from Stars earns quite decent marks.