Stars, Set Yourself On Fire | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Pin It

Stars, Set Yourself On Fire 

Album Review

(Arts & Crafts, CD)

Canada is experiencing a musical renaissance of late; fawning critics see the country as a breeding ground for inventive music that isn't driven by corporate interests. Montreal's Stars are part of a growing horde of collective-minded musicians who are re-writing the rules of modern rock. Sharing two members with indie darlings Broken Social Scene, the Stars' latest release, Set Yourself on Fire, is nothing short of a pop miracle. Impeccably produced, the disc brims with infectious melodies, sonic flourishes and poignant lyrics.

With touching and sometimes blackly humorous pop tunes, the album achieves a "frame-by-frame" realism reminiscent of the independent films of director Hal Hartley. Lyrical examples of frustration and heartache exist alongside hook-laden musical passages that lean toward the grandiose.

Amy Millan's coquettish voice is indie-rock manna; framed by electronic gurgles and majestic strings, her gentle coo gets under your skin. Anyone who remembers her work on Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It in People will know what I mean. Vocalist/keyboardist Torquil Campbell's breathy singing wonderfully complements Millan's, while the band's sweeping song structures provide a potent backdrop for both.

Stars excel at the existential pop song, fusing sugary sounds with morbid subject matter. Title track "Set Yourself on Fire" finds beauty in bleakness, with each singer describing the inevitability of death. "Another decade getting high until you're free/there's nothing after that for you and I," Campbell sings on the song's fleeting coda.

"Reunion" is a bittersweet tune about homecoming that many of us can relate to. It's a familiar story, to be sure, but far more compelling here than in the film Garden State.

Stars hit their peak with "The Big Fight," which dispassionately dissects a fraying relationship. "Lied even while you held my hand," Campbell sings. "It's death for the living/Yes I am a ghost," he continues. Millan's retort is breathtakingly earnest: "He doesn't want her but he just won't let her go," she sings. Straightforward in its depiction of romantic trauma, the tune hits home.

Set Yourself on Fire proves that you don't necessarily have to be retro, progressive or post-anything to make a great record; strong songwriting and convincing performances never go out of style. Stars are joined by fellow Canadians, and Broken Social Scene collaborators, Apostle of Hustle, in an early show at Club Metronome, Sunday, March 6. Local indie-popsters The Smittens open.

Did you appreciate this story?

Show us your ❤️ by becoming a Seven Days Super Reader.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Tags: , ,

Pin It

More by Casey Rea

About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Album Review

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2019 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation