Review Summary: Stars release some of their most fluid and organic material to date.
At some point going into In Our Bedroom After the War
, Stars hit a wall. Or they must have at any rate, considering the decline from the great Set Yourself on Fire
. It wasn't especially steep; In Our Bedroom After the War
had some excellent cuts in "Take Me to the Riot" and "Personal", but the album ultimately lacked the vigour of their past works. 2008's Sad RobotsEP
was a step in the right direction; the band better captured the intimate vibes emphasized on In Our Bedroom After the War
, while further developing Stars' usage of electronic instrumentation.
Really, Sad Robots
was only hampered by its twenty-two minute runtime. Every time I hear "Sad Robot" close out the EP, I kind of wish that it would have carried on for another twenty to thirty minutes, giving the ideas that Stars explored. In some respect, The Five Ghosts
continues where Sad Robots
left off, though they do revisit their playful side in upbeat singles, "Fixed" and "We Don't Want Your Body". Both tracks stand out on early listens due to sheer catchiness, and "Fixed" certainly has the potential to be a hit. With that said, Stars are at their best in their slower, more minimal material, which sees them dig a little deeper. In and of itself, the Torquil Campbell/Amy Millan vocal trade-off in "Dead Hearts" work exceedingly well; factor in the lush guitars, and they sound almost flawless. Comparisons with the direction Metric took on Fantasies are apt, though The Five Ghosts
utilizes keyboards more than guitars and is less polished. It's a fairly simple album in construction and sound, but the soothing melodies that were so effective in Fantasies songs like "Help I'm Alive" or "Blindness" (and an older song like "Police and the Private"), carry the record in "The Passenger", "He Dreams He's Awake", and the anomalous "Changes". And like Fantasies, The Five Ghosts
achieves this sound in a number of different ways; "He Dreams He's Awake" is shrouded in atmospheric ambience, while "Wasted Daylight" is drenched in shimmery synthesizer, and "Changes" moves along at a slow waltz.
My first reaction to The Five Ghosts
was that Stars could have let loose a little more like they do in "Fixed". Perhaps they could have (they really nail it on "Fixed"), but after repeated listens, it's pretty clear that the band is at their best when they get really intimate. With two straight strong releases in Sad Robots
and The Five Ghosts
, Stars are quickly carving out their own niche among their peers. And in doing so, they're writing some of the most fluid and organic music of their lives.