Best of 2012

Posted in Music on January 31st, 2013 by Tom

So it’s late, but that’s life.

Best Albums of 2012!

It was a necessary step for me to begin to get back on the music horse after a pretty abysmal showing November – January.

As always, hit up the Music Calendar for my personal checklist of stuff to check out in the coming months!

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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


2010 Best Of

Posted in Music on December 11th, 2010 by Tom

Read the Full List Here

I’ve been hard at work on my top albums of 2010, and it’s finally done! Head over to the article for the complete list, commentary, songs, etc.

In the next few weeks, I’ve got exams and the like, so I probably won’t have more to share until I get home later in December. Until then, I hope you enjoy the list.


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The Five Ghosts

Posted in Music on July 16th, 2010 by Tom

Stars (The Stars? I never know how the name should be used) are one of my favorite bands of the last five years. Their past two albums, the raw Set Yourself on Fire and the cinematic In Our Bedroom After the War, have been among some of my most favorite records. Suffice to say then that their latest studio release, titled The Five Ghosts, was much anticipated.

There’s a lot to love on Ghosts, but also a little to want for. The two tracks released ahead of the album, ‘Fixed’ and ‘We Don’t Want Your Body’ are paired together as the fourth and fifth songs, and work excellently together. Particularly the latter, whose chorus I think is a little stupid,

Your soul is searching ecstasy
So you could have some sex with me
I don’t want your body
I don’t want your body

but ultimately has some really cool lyrical moments as well,

The window blind undrawn
You flash your trash to turn me on
Your just a tramp, you’re just a trick
Our hunger starts to make us sick

Lie down and try to talk to me
Sleep now and dream of who you’ll be
But will you actually be anyone?

Back-tracking to the opening, ‘Dead Ghosts’ was a really great choice to start the album, and ‘Wasted Daylight’, while not my favorite song, is a shining example of what a musical asset Amy Millan is to the group. One of the songs that really stood out as exactly what I was wanting from this album though, was ‘I Died So I Could Haunt You‘.

‘I Died So I Could Haunt You’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It has a really great bass line, and all the emotive trappings we’ve come to expect from Stars, somehow making an incredibly sad sentiment almost fun. A stark contrast to this are the songs ‘He Dreams He’s Awake’ and ‘Changes’. The former is typical slow-builder which just builds too slow and never really takes off. The latter is pretty (again, props to Millan), but ultimately left me feeling pretty bored.

Fortunately, the end of the album really comes to the rescue. ‘Passenger’ has a some great synth, and an especially well-crafted chorus that gets bigger and better with each iteration. ‘The Last Song Ever Written’ is a decent slow song that provides a good lead in to ‘How Much More‘, which might be the best song on the entire record.

‘How Much More’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Here we finally have a track where Millan’s voice is not the only thing to show up for, but also the tune itself is noteworthy. Campbell’s backing is a good complement, and now that I think about it, is what I missed throughout a lot of the album. More Torquil Campbell-led songs would have been helped, I think. In any case, ‘How Much More’ is on par with some of the highest points on any Stars album, and really is a saving grade for Ghosts

In spite of it all, I still have to recommend this album; even on an off-day, Stars are a fantastic group and worth investing some time. The constituent tracks of The Five Ghosts don’t work in quite the beautiful concert of the past two efforts, but like I said above, there really is a lot to love.

Stars – The Five Ghosts