Although the enshrinement of pop continues to carry discrepancies, disagreements and discord, there’s little disenchantment with its overall spectrum of style. The catchy effect, the easy ability in being able to revel in heart-warming subjects and the combination of 80s influence into the brand new 2010s we live in, is a remarkable thing. Stars have quietly enjoyed success behind a fortitude of strong pop hooks and an ensemble cast of musicians that are all well aware of what magic pop can deploy. Breaking onto the scene with Set Yourself on Fire, they’ve amassed a rich discography and a strong legion of fans but they’ve never truly created that stronghold of greatness.
Their latest affair, The North, celebrates in the rushing cool pop can control and they firmly represent a distinctive fusion of pop with anthemic rock. Songs like “Through the Mines” are energetic tracks that embark upon the quest of pop magnitude with juicy hooks and strong songcrafting. The sides of the song explode with an intense, soaring chorus and there’s a magnificent amount of fashionable pop. Even the following “Do You Want to Die Together?” begins with an almost doo-wop style of presentation before the shouting drums and towering blend of voices rejoice in the experimentation. It’s both a morbid romantic song, tied into a scratchy and Lykke Li-like infusion of melodramatic roots. There’s obvious flair incorporated into The North and the voices of Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell still sound rejuvenated and pure together.
And while the press release for The North mistakenly declares that “Chillwave and all manner orchestral pop that abounds today owe a debt to STARS,” the opening declaration of synth-heavy melodies and swooning decadence definitely owe a debt to the magical music M83 has created for more than a decade now. “The Theory of Relativity” begins with sounds of the sea, before the 80s-influenced transcended vibe of the keyboards and the bubbling vocals. And although heady influences are neither here nor there, Stars influence on others is still up for grabs; fortunately “The Theory of Relativity” succeeds at celebrating pop in all forms. There’s a catchy tendency that arises and it coalesces under the realm of pop sensibilities: there’s little denying the sheer amount of hooks on The North.
If nothing else, Stars owe a debt to the sprawling music that Broken Social Scene was known for, back when Millan and Campbell were induced in the band’s music. Relatively hard to gauge – with all the interchangeable members – both Stars and Broken Social Scene would perform alongside each other; Stars have always shed light on the lighter side of pop, with a nod to the dramatic. On “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” the band employs the use of more scintillating synthesizers, with a brash blend of anthemic promise with guitars that sound stadium-ready and glisten with tender odes. While the music on The North isn’t the breathtaking territory that something like You Forgot it in People is, there’s a subtle notion of theatrics to appreciate and Millan’s voice is as strong as ever.
On their previous effort, The Five Ghosts, Stars employed almost a similar attacking style to their music with morbid touches and songs like “I Died So I Could Haunt You.” But they haven’t seem to lose that frenetic ability at tying it all together with torching pop that enables a hook, line and sinker within almost every song. The North continues to show off their skill and while nothing earth-shattering will be found here, it’s something to fully bask in.