Stars

Stars' Official Website!

By Liz Frith

WHEN: 2000 – present

CULPRITS: Torquil Campbell, Amy Millan, Chris Seligman, Evan Cranley, and Pat McGee

ALBUMS: A Lot of Little Lies for the Sake of One Big Truth EP (2001); Nightsongs (2001); The Comeback EP (2001); Heart (2003); Set Yourself on Fire (2004); Do You Trust Your Friends? (remixes; 2007); In Our Bedroom after the War (2007); Sad Robots EP (2008)

HOW: In 2005, I was an unhappy suburban housewife. I wasn’t legally married, but I was 26 years old and settled in a life that didn’t suit me. I was languishing in a relationship that should have ended after college — but it didn’t end. We kept going, we were kids playing dress-up in roles that seemed so perfect, so romantic in the beginning. The relationship stretched out for nearly 7 years; involving Virginia, Texas, and California; two adorable cats; a bevy of shared possessions; and an affable, well-meaning guy who loved me more than anything. What does this have to do with Stars and the music that I was listening to that year? More than you’d think.

I touched upon this with my previous playlist on Broken Social Scene, but I didn’t become excessively music-minded until 2005. That year, I discovered a beautiful song called “Look Up” while browsing iTunes mixes featuring indie musicians from Canada. Amy Millan’s soft, honeyed voice charmed me, and I purchased their 2003 album, Heart. Layered with beautiful, simple instrumentals and deep lyrical content, I became wholly impressed with the album after a few listens. One day on my way home from work, I became ruminative too. “Hearts wrapped in blankets, laying low,” Stars whispered in my ear. “Look at you, you’re growing old so young…

I realized that I was a coward. I had known for a long time that my relationship was over, and I hated myself — this bored, reclusive girl who had stopped dreaming. Stars’ music is sentimental, but it’s an action statement too. Their music, among other things, inspired me to change everything. I live this life with my heart now.

WHY: Stars is the project of childhood friends Torquil Campbell and Chris Seligman. Later on, Amy Millan, Evan Cranley, and Pat McGee joined the band. Stars is another example of the brilliant and collaborative the Canadian indie music scene — all of the musicians contribute to Broken Social Scene as well.

Stars have described their mission for making music as making horror movies as love stories. This makes sense the more you listen to their catalogue. Stars’ music takes a narrative approach, and the space between two lovers takes many forms within their songs: hope, infatuation, passion, ache, fury, regret… Stars’ music may be earnest and emotive, but it isn’t pedestrian or trite. It isn’t easy to construct airy, synth-pop songs that are bold and vibrant too. Are you really going to get over that break-up with Animal Collective playing in the background? I didn’t think so. Pop music has its place. Moreover, I love a beautiful duet. As the he said/she said of love and loss, Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell’s voices are perfectly paired.

SONGS: I have great affection for Heart and Set Yourself on Fire. Both works occupy prominent slots in my top 10 favorite albums of all time, and I definitely encourage you to seek them out. Moreover, I went back and spent a lot of time on Stars’ first full-length album, Nightsongs, while making this mix. The album is an obvious precursor to Heart —”Tonight” and “On Peak Hill” flow seamlessly in this playlist.

Your Ex-Lover is Dead” is a perfect introduction to Stars — it unfolds as if it was meant to soundtrack Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As a narrative, it’s Clementine’s “meet me in Montauk” put to song. Next, turn your ears toward “This Charming Man” from A Lot Of Little Lies. Stars have listed The Smiths as having a big influence on their work, and their old cover of “This Charming Man” is lovely. As for the remaining songs on the playlist, their union is a melodrama to behold.

WHAT’S MISSING: I am not a big fan of their most recent full-length album, In Our Bedroom After the War, and it is barely represented here. It garnered good reviews, but I think the album is less imaginative than their earlier works. I also decided to leave off songs from their remix album, Do You Trust Your Friends? The album isn’t a terrible collection of remixes, but every single track is much better in its original state. Don’t start there, please!

YOU MADE IT THIS FAR: Despite my accolades, I’m sometimes reticent to recommend Stars to my friends. Yep, it’s pop music, guys, and it’s pretty sappy sometimes. If you spend your free time building cabinets and carving pipes, you probably won’t like Stars. (Unless you are building the cabinets for your ex-lover and the pipe is in her likeness. Then there’s hope.) Give the playlist a listen and make up your own mind. I love Stars and I hope you will too!

LINK: Click on the list below to hear all of these songs for FREE on Lala.com!

Click the list to hear our STARS playlist on Lala.com!

SAMPLE SONGS:

“Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” from Set Yourself On Fire

“Elevator Love Letter” from Heart

_________________________

Liz Frith is author of theblisslist.org.  A Stanford University editor & production manager by day, she is known to manically giggle while abusing grammar rules during off-hours.  Very tall (some say a fraction zoo animal), Liz loves hiking up medium-sized mountains & mounds, eating ice cream flavored with bourbon, and reading from The New Yorker every single coffee-fueled morning.

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~ by eastbk on October 22, 2009.

4 Responses to “Stars”

  1. I was glad when you introduced me to Stars last year and I still like them. Good selection of songs and an even better explanation as to why they are important. Keep on adjectively keeping on.

  2. This is glorious. You’ve bookended the playlist with two of my favourite Stars tracks – that deserves a simpatico fist-bump.
    As for the story peeping out from behind… seems like you got your heart right missus. Fantastic write-up Liz! x

  3. This is so great Liz 🙂 And I can totally relate, SO MUCH, to that first paragraph…i lived that. Not a fun stretch…ah, the power of music.

    Stay brazen Liz, stay brazen

  4. STARS completely turned me off when I saw them at ACL: completely pompous, ridiculous, and self-righteous. And boring.

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