Record Label: ATO Records
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Over a dozen years of blending into the background of the vast indie landscape, Toronto’s Stars have led a prolific but not quite spectacular career. Despite this, Stars are quite the critic’s pet with unending praise being piled on most of their releases. The Toronto five-piece have returned with their sixth studio album The North, a collection of twelve indie-pop tunes with electronic flourishes, that are exactly the reason why these guys have lasted so very long.
The North is very much a continuation of previous form. Maintaining the melodramatic indie that Stars do so beautifully, The North manages to channel every aspect of the indie rock spectrum, whilst creating a body of art that is perfectly coherent. Throughout the release, Torquil Campbell’s vocals are spot on, his soft tone suiting the poetic but accessible vocals. Synthesizers are a very important part of the release and play a prominent role in the majority of tracks, however rather than saturate the album with their electronic leanings, Stars are one of the few acts that can masterfully use synthesizers and beats alongside frail, quirk-filled indie rock in the way they were truly meant to. Opener “The Theory Of Relativity” has an incredibly catchy synth line and channels more than a bit of M83. Aside from being an excellent indie-dance song, that delightfully contrasts delicate female vocals alongside Campbell’s, the tracks shows that Stars are completely willing to adjust their sound.
As well as the songs being aesthetically delightful, The North contains reams of intelligently and subtly catchy choruses. “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” is not only excellently titled, but contains a chorus and chord progression that could entrance any indie dancefloor around the world. Sounding absolutely massive, the track is not only a highlight of this release, but possibly of their career. “Through The Mines” is just lovely, with Amy Millan’s vocals sounding ridiculously pretty over a landscape of luscious but understated indie rock. “Do You Want To Die Together?” features excellently quirky lyrics (“I’ll love you till the day I die/So don’t die today") and is exactly what pop music should sound like.
That’s not to say that the album is flawless; “A Song Is A Weapon” is just bland, and sticks out like a sore thumb among the track listing. “Progress” is basically a re-shaped blend of earlier tracks in the release and comes across as just filler music, however, in general, The North is the sound of a band who are comfortable in their own skin and know exactly what they want to sound like. The musicianship is consistently accurate and the majority of the tracks could be chart-toppers in a lovely alternative universe in which skill as a songwriter is what decides who controls the musical public.
If you are already a Stars fan, you will love this album. If you’re new to Stars, you will love this album. Excellent.
This album is terrific! A great step in the right direction, especially after the many stumbling points of Five Ghosts. I would definitely argue this is their best record, yet--barely surpassing Set Yourself On Fire, but I think it does.