‘The North’ is Stars’ sixth – yes that’s right, sixth – album, and even if you weren’t a fan of their last couple, there’s definitely going to be something for you here. As soon as the synth kicks in for opener ‘The Theory Of Relativity’, you know you’re in for a treat.
Amy Millan has said in interviews that this is to be a more hopeful, joyful, upbeat album. And whilst it does have that bouncy pop feel to it in places, as in the annoyingly-named ‘Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It’ or the lush, much better-named single ‘Backlines’, where it excels is really in its quieter, more delicate moments.
Just listen to Torquil Campbell sing “sleep is my friend and my rival” in an almost hushed tone. ‘The North’ is all about texture and layers, with no one theme really breaking out to take centre stage; this album feels like a whole, not the sum of its parts. Although that’s not to say that some tracks don’t stand out more than others: the quiet-loud-quiet of ‘Do You Want To Die Together?’ is absolutely fantastic, from the lilting verses to the crashing, melodramatic chorus. Here, as with elsewhere on the record, boy-girl vocals hit the spot.
‘A Song Is A Weapon’ brings back the recorded spoken-word intro that opened the album, and is one of the more serious moments. It replaces much of the synth with standard guitar rhythms and gives most of the vocal duties back to Campbell, who apparently wants to kill someone with a song. With emotions clearly on the line in songs like the delicate, pinao-led ‘The 400’, you never know if Stars really could kill someone with a choice lyric.
“There’s been a lot of talk of love”, sings Campbell, “but that don’t amount to nothing.” Well maybe words don’t always mean something in lieu of actions, but when Stars are behind them, we can safely assume they’re words worth listening to.