Review Summary: What is love, but whatever, my heart needs around?
Expectation in music is evidently rife from an external point of view (hype transforms people's opinions of bands and records almost daily on a subconscious level) but its presence and use on the inside of the music is something often overlooked. We expect a climax - a release of energy. If it's pop-rock, we expect a hook; if it's post-rock, we await a crescendo. It's no secret that the most groundbreaking and impressive material is that which successfully shatters these expectations and replaces them with something even more fulfilling or enjoyable, a tough effect to achieve given that our pre-conceptions are normally based around what has pleased us in the past. It's a subtle art, holding somebody on the brink of that expectation; it's easy to give in to the idea of an anthemic chorus or a twist, but playing with the listener's suspense is considerably more rewarding when it's done right.
Different Stars is not easy. That doesn't mean it's filled with 10-minute long passages of static, but it's an album which affects and captures your attention and focus so strongly that calling it easy would, as is usually the case, be a disservice. But it's soft; Anna-Lynne Williams, pivotal, conducts waves of ethereal guitars and spaced-out percussion on her way to delivering bullet after bullet of heartbreaking conversation in a gentle, resigned tone. With her eyes closed, she doesn't throw herself at the spotlight; it finds its way to her. There is no wordplay. There is no in-joke. There is just guitar, piano, drums, ambience, a dream-like production and her downtempo honesty, every word of it vital, not a redundant syllable to be found. On the title-track she croons, All the weight, it must be light wherever you are,
and the ebbing, quiet guitars just push her gently on her way. And I know you don't think twice wherever you are,
There's not much more to say. The melodies are breathtaking, and the consistency of Different Stars is something else entirely. It's a record that should become positively tiresome after 3 or 4 songs, but the quality of the songwriting and the allure of Williams' voice keeps it close, gripping. You know when you want to go to sleep but you just have to finish that book? Different Stars is like that. You learn not to expect the huge resolution; these songs leave a hole by way of their personal, grounded romanticism, and at once they are capable of sounding hopeless, optimistic, depressed and uplifting. Mostly, though, it's beautiful. Entirely. And what makes it moreso is the group's refusal to give in. There is absolutely no indication that Trespassers William are itching to turn up the volume or break out into sing-along. Sure, there are catchy moments, but nothing about Different Stars is going to get you on the dancefloor. That said, once you know the words, it's impossible not to find yourself caught up in them.
2004 passed by without the mainstream or many at all knowing that Different Stars existed, and it's not wholly surprising; it's an album far too heavy and deliberate to listen to on a whim. As soon as it's on, though, it's far too difficult to turn off. The deep keys and the downbeat chords hurt, but they keep you hooked, and they grow as the album progresses, gaining in depth and personality. Somehow, the soft, dragging rhythms and the poignant lyricism becomes addictive, the simple, layered soundscapes become home and before you know it, track 11 is fading out. By that point, you won't know where you are.