Toronto-born Stars is part of the Canadian synth-rock collective that spawned other well-known bands like Broken Social Scene and Metric. Together with those bands, Stars has put Canadian music on the map. As a result, bands from other countries, like Australian band An Horse, have relocated to the country to live and record.
So it’s fitting that their latest work, The North would again lead the way. The sound lead members Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan offer is supple, malleable and a guide for other musicians in their region.
Stars’ lyrics are almost always focused on relationships and love and much less rebellious and jagged than Canadian band Metric, one of Stars’ closest contemporaries. Even so, at times the band can still rock out. It’s a formula they didn’t deviate from on the new album.
If you’re familiar with Metric, you know its most prominent characteristic is the female vocals of rocker Emily Haines. With Stars you get those via Millan, but the nice addition Stars brings to the table is that Campbell often joins his vocals with hers, adding an essential nuance to their romance-themed songs.
On “The Theory of Relativity,” the opening track of The North, which is their sixth studio album, the perfection of modernized ‘80s synth ripples under their dense vocals creating a beautiful up tempo song that is polite about being aggressive.
From there, The North keeps its electro-rock base but adds elements of orchestral pop as strings infiltrate the slower songs like “Backlines” and the album’s title track. On the fourth cut “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It,” Millan and Campbell pair their vocals for another accelerated rock song before simmering down with the sorrowful songs “The 400” and “Walls.”
The North doesn’t break any ground for Stars—in fact no album of theirs has since 2007’s In Our Bedroom After the War. But it is more of what fans love and a great entry point for listeners new to the genre.
Nightsongs (2001): Stars’ first album. Heavier in synth and lighter on rock instrumentation, but still a great place to jump into the evolution of Canadian rock.
In Our Bedroom After the War (2007): The ground-breaking album from Stars features the unrelenting track “Take Me To the Riot.” This album stands as the band’s most heartfelt, from-the-gut offering to date. Find a copy of the physical CD for an extra disc of insightful interviews with the band.
Honey From the Tombs (2006): Amy Millan solo album featuring songs written years earlier with country and folk influences.
A Little Place in the Wilderness (2011): The third studio album from Torquil Campbell’s side project Memphis, which he formed with Metric founding member Chris Dumont.
Photo taken by ATO Records.
Wednesday, Nov. 7,
The Aladdin Theater, Portland