Indie rock/pop royalty Stars, released their first album Nightsongs over a dozen years ago, and since have like many of their friends/classmates of the Broken Social Scene era have become stalwarts of the Canadian music scene. The North, the band’s fifth album finds the band hitting their stride with their most charismatic album to date.
The North marks a more optimistic, urgent and upbeat Stars than of records past. Lead single ‘The Theory of Relativity’ introduces an album that finds the human touch in synthesizers for warm, vibrant pop the backbone of The North. A scene of urgency runs throughout North from the upbeat ‘Backlines’ a short but sweet track full Amy Millan’s charming vocals, to the pulsing beat of ‘Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It’ (a long winded title if there ever were one) that explodes into crescendos of energy. Like many classic Stars tracks the aforementioned ‘Hold On…’ plays off Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell’s girl/boy vocals a staple of any Stars record.
The glowing optimistic rocker ‘Through the Mines’ builds tension that never fully climaxes but are rewarded when the doo wop sway of ‘Do You Want to Die Together’ makes way for combustible cymbals and drums. Elsewhere ‘Progress’ is cheeky fun with bouncy hollowed out beats and shimmering 80s pop, lyrics like ‘you could be the one, could be the one to change everything’ never fully commits instead basking in the possibilities.
The North’s strength lies in it’s spellbinding use of synth, warmed by keyboardist Chris Seligman for a more human touch and a key element in the album’s pop confection. Stars leave some of the despair that has haunted many of their best tracks for a brighter, utopian synth-pop that pays off in spades. Interpret The North as you may, there is no escaping the albums radiant charm.
SV Approved: ‘The Theory of Relativity,’ ‘Progress’ and ‘Through The Mines.’