Stars’ The Five Ghosts is full of consistent, illusory pop, but will it be remembered?

I am, and always have been, a huge fan of Stars. Or rather, to say it better, their potential. When they strike gold, they are utterly amazing (See: “Elevator Love Letter”, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”, “Look Up”, “Ageless Beauty”), but oftentimes they limit themselves to songs that mosey along without much affect, relying simply on Amy Millan’s brilliant vocals.

Here’s the deal with Stars’ The Five Ghosts: It is the Canadian troupe’s most consistent effort yet. Nearly every song is really really…good. The problem though, is that The Five Ghosts lacks true standout tracks that can make your stomach twist and turn with the “wow” factor. I don’t freeze up in awe listening to any of the songs. Yes, my expectations are high. But at this point, I think I have the right for such expectations. Stars have one of the best vocalists in the game and have produced some of my favorite songs ever.

Straying from the personal experience and expectations, The Five Ghosts as an album is, indeed, very good (as aforementioned), and finds Stars in a different element than usual. The back and forth chemistry between Millan and Torquil Campbell still exists; the electronic foundation remains; the harmonies still play the most prominent roles. But the album delivers a decidedly “retro” feel, with some 80’s psychedelia and reverb a plenty. “The Passenger” is especially symbolic of the retro sound. The dominating synth, echoing vocals, cymbal-driven percussion, and dark demeanor all fit pretty well into my Mother’s college days. “I Died So I Could Haunt You” is one of my favorites on the album, with steady, pounding percussion, a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, Millan and Campbell singing over each other, and dreamy synth to round out the sound.

The album follows a simple progression, from the slower, standard Stars fare (starting with the very familiar “Dead Hearts”, which finds me immediately salivating over Millan’s vocals, and “Wasted Daylight”) to the fuller, rocking, reverb-drenched rest of the album, then back into comforting territory. You won’t grow tired of The Five Ghosts, and an album is always a mark of success when you can continuously play it without a feeling of overuse. But I fear that you’ll also come out of it without a song that you’ll remember for years to come. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Stars – “I Died So I Could Haunt You” [MP3]

Stars – “Wasted Daylight” [MP3]

Purchase The Five Ghosts

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