The North

Posted in Music on October 11th, 2012 by Tom

It was surprising to hear that one of my all-time favorite groups, Canada’s Stars, had already cranked out a new album. 2010’s The Five Ghosts wasn’t met with the warmest of welcomes (even I described it as an ‘off-day’, in spite of having many strong tracks), but this seems to have not deterred the band.

The overall tempo of The North is much better executed than its predecessor. The title track, a downplayed, repetitive number, gives you just enough breathing room between the big openers ‘Theory of Relativity’ and ‘Backlines’ and the somewhat verbosely titled ‘Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It‘.

And don’t let the name set you off, the song backs some of the biggest energy on the album:

‘Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

take the weakest thing in you,
and then beat the bastards with it

…Torquil Campbell advises us. Good tip!

The album is filled with little unabashedly-Stars moments just like that. Through a magic that is theirs alone, The North is more optimistic than the past two albums in spite of the super-fun downer ‘Do You Want To Die Together?’. The song is so well crafted that you almost find yourself wanting to belt along with the chorus, despite the sheer morbidity factor.

Two more stripped down tracks bridge us over to what I anticipate to be my ultimate favorite on this record. ‘A Song Is A Weapon‘ opens with it’s own cryptic audio sample before diving right in. The song’s lyrics read like bitter vitriol on paper, but in the track they play with such cautious optimism that the figurative battle seems to be nearly won.

‘A Song Is A Weapon’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Tangentially political? Maybe, from a certain angle. But I think it’s really just a classic, wounded-lover Stars track. The only new twist here is it’s cast in some of their most exquisite songwriting to date.

Penultimate ‘The 400’ is perhaps the lone guarded moment on the album. The ambient aural fuzz instantly recalls Death Cab’s ‘Transatlanticism’, as does the song’s infinite iterations of its thesis. It’s shorter, but it doesn’t require the same degree of buildup to cut the listener to their emotional core; the lyric

it’s got to go right this time
it’s got to go right this time…

does the job just fine on its own.

And then the excellent little crossfade into ‘Walls’ to close? Big, fat synth on this track along with the harps is the perfect recipe for catharsis to a really amazing record.

The North is one of those rare records that you just want to play on loop multiple times per sitting. And why not? Milan and company are an experienced outfit making excellent use of their talent at its peak. Go ahead and indulge.

Stars – The North


Mailbag: Volume 5, Voltaire Twins

Posted in Mailbag, Music on October 7th, 2012 by Tom

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time, I get e-mails from artists suggesting that I might be interested in their music. The “mailbag” is my attempt to give back by showcasing the talent of those emerging artists whose work I genuinely enjoyed.

It’s been so long since we’ve done a mailbag, or any post for that matter! At the end of August I got an e-mail about the new NSFW ‘banned’ video for the new single by Perth indie synth poppers Voltaire Twins. You can view that video right here:

Voltaire Twins – Solaris from Voltaire Twins on Vimeo.

The nudity for which it was banned from the ol’ YouTube is moderate, in a writhing group-sex-scene-from-the-Matrix-sequel sortof way, but arty enough that I it isn’t tawdry or porny. I liked the video, personally.

So much so that I quickly found my way to the band’s SoundCloud page to hear more of the music, which is what really had impressed me.

I highly encourage you to hit up the SC link at the bottom, where you can stream the full Apollo EP. Clocking in at 4 songs, it’s over in roughly 16 minutes, but it’s such a rich experience that you can’t help but give it another spin the second it stops.

Initially, the video track ‘Solaris’ was the draw for me, but little by little the second track became my favorite, then the third… and finally the fourth. Every song on Apollo is worthy of being a ‘favorite’.

For the closing track, which is my present preference, ‘Silhouettes‘ paints a vivid image of a frigid, perfect world where the two objects of the song had never met.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

The ethereal synth is amazing accompaniment over the dual vocals of Tegan and Jaymes, which ring with a sharpness and clarity only a proper listen will do justice. Thumping, tribal percussion offers contrast and texture that rewards repeat listens.

Can’t recommend this one enough. Super excited to see what a full-length from these guys would look like.

Voltaire Twins’ SoundCloud Page
Purchase Apollo on iTunes