Just a few tracks off Stars’ debut album, Nightsongs, had me eagerly anticipating whatever they did next. Their mix of electronica, pop, and near-indie rock came together in ways both affecting and catchy with their tendency for dramatic flourishes being part of the charm. When I checked out their next few albums, though, those flourishes seemed more dramatic for drama’s sake. While I knew Stars was one of those bands that would always be worth a listen, I didn’t know if the band who once so potently delivered the line ‘All I want is my radio’ would be on mine when a radio was all I wanted.
‘Well, the only way I see this happening is in an extended ride north.’
From the first sound bite on “The Theory of Relativity”, the first track on The North, I felt like my hang-ups with the band were being addressed specifically. From opening to closing, The North feels like a band evolving simply because they’re bringing their maturation as people to their music. No longer burdened by the weight of a thematic relationship that seems like it’s played out over the course of four albums — in self-contained, occasionally style-conscious fashion – on The North Stars’ danceable ballads and introspective slow-burners have a renewed sense of vitality that comes from tapping a deeper well.
In songs like the title track and “Lights Changing Colour,” Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan sing about things I never thought I’d hear this particular band singing about, crafting lyrics that sound like the most poetic lines in a novel on subjects like feeling stuck, what it takes to trudge on, and the silver linings of losing streaks. In an album tempered with a somber awareness of reality, there’s a dedication to resurgence amid the harshness of life that makes it all quite inspiring.
Through “The North,” Stars explore a landscape that feels much bigger than romantic entanglements in posh settings. The missteps are minimal. Overwhelmingly, The North is very cohesive, with great hooks and lyrics that are accessibly complex. One of my favorite listens of the year, and thus far, certainly the most surprising.
— Writing, blogging and interviews by David Menzies can be found at davidmzs.wordpress.com