Stars’ “The Five Ghosts”

“Although their quality is still solid, there’s very little for me that’s truly memorable on this album.” -BY

Beth Yeckley

out of 10

The Five Ghost
June 21, 2010

I have to say that I’m disappointed with Stars latest offering, “The Five Ghosts.” It’s absolutely beautiful, true to Stars’ reputation. But it lacks the melodrama that helped make their 2004 album, Set Yourself On Fire, so brilliant and engaging. The vocal pairing of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan is still the kind of thing that will melt your heart and leave your ears longing for their voices as you make your morning commute. The strong hand of synth mixed with fuzzy guitars and the other instrumentation varies the album between 80s dance parties and haunting houses, drooping beneath the night sky.

“Wasted Daylight” is a highlight for me, with a little Postal Service vibe and a really engaging narrative that actually brings you into the room that Millan is singing about. She goes, “It’s three in the afternoon/ We still haven’t moved/ Siren sighs echo/ A pulse through our window,” and I find myself remembering days like this and hoping everyone has had them. And that’s what I love about what Stars can do with their music. They have the ability to shape a room, a party, a cityscape, and drop you into it as a lead role, not a bystander.

“We Don’t Want Your Body” is the only song that I have a hard time fitting onto this album, lyrically. I mean, it’s a fun song—it’s that 80s dance I referred to before, and should probably make it onto one of your summer mixes. But in the midst of the other ten songs, hearing, “You sold me some cheap ecstasy/ So you could have some sex with me/ I don’t want your body/ I don’t want your body” just kind of makes me laugh. There’s nothing chaotic or lazy about the album. In fact, it’d be difficult to find a moment on “The Five Ghosts” that doesn’t feel deliberate and ingenious in its form. There are strong shades of the eerie ghost theme, whether delivered by the keys or softer, sadder percussion and vocals. There are kinetic moments on this album, but I just didn’t quite get my fill of the dramatic performances and hearty instrumentation that I heard on songs like “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.”

Although their quality is still solid, there’s very little for me that’s truly memorable on this album. Stars easily has the potential to capture a listener with one song and have them hooked for months. But it’s hard to feel what they’re saying on this album; it’s like they’re performing stories for you and not extending the invitation to join them.

–Beth Yeckley, July 8, 2010