A guest contribution from Friend of Rachel Worth, a very long time supporter and contributor to this and the old blog and whose own musings can be found on the much-loved and much-missed Cathedrals of Sound.
I have to confess that his contribution features a band I’ve heard of but until this point in time only knew two of their songs…..both of which feature in FoRW’s piece and so, just as I found myself really enjoying Tilly and The Wall the other week as a new discovery, so it has proved with Stars.
This Imaginary LPs series is damn hard. I’d tried one for Prefab Sprout but gave up when I realised for side one I was just going to replicate side one of Steve McQueen. I had a rough cut for the Blue Nile when I remembered they weren’t the flavour in VV world. I’d finally got one sorted and was about to press send when to my horror rhetor had beaten me to it with his excellent Trashcan Sinatras choices. All was not lost as in his post he mentioned a band I really liked who seem to be met by continued indifference despite being at various times a strange brew of New Order, Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths and St Etienne. A quick look down the side bar also revealed that they had not featured on the blog before.
Stars are a Canadian band with 8 LPs to their name and led by the gloriously named Torquil Campbell. In many ways they are the perfect band for an imaginary LP in that their own LPs can be a bit patchy; however each one has at least a couple of killer tracks. Having said that none of he final 10 come from the debut LP Night Songs (despite the temptation the include their version of This Charming Man). I guess how much you like them depends on how much you like a boy / girl vocal dynamic which they do an awful lot! Any way here goes
1 Your Ex Lover is Dead
This is the first track I heard by the band and what a way to kick off “If there is nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire” sampled from the singers father heralds a great two-handed story of ex lovers meeting at a party , all pretend indifference “god that was strange to see you again , introduced by a friend of a friend , I smiled and said yes I think We’ve met before ….. all of that time you thought I was sad I was trying to remember your name” to joyful good riddance “I’ll write you a postcard , send you a note , from the house down the road , from real love”. Less electronic than some of their tracks the music builds and swells to the kiss off of “I’m not sorry there’s nothing to say”
Another love gone wrong with a bit of a nursery rhyme sing along and the highlight to the 2nd LP. This also starts a bit of a trend where the title tracks are the strongest songs on their various lps . The chorus from the ex girlfriend has a wonderful ambiguity that you can read a couple of ways “all right I can say what you want me to , alright I can do all the things you do , all right I can make it all up for you , I’m still in love with you” . I love that the song goes on for about a min more than it needed to , just floating along. I am a bit of a sucker for an extended outro.
3 Look Away
The latest album from last year feels like a bit of last throw of the dice , an effort to make an LP full of potential singles. As a result it does sum up a bit of a dilemma with Stars in that too much can be a bit sugary , however there is normally enough bite in the lyrics to leave a bit of sour. This is a case in point – just a nice mid-paced tune the type they do so well , but with an ache in the lyric.
A change of pace for a pre Tinder world and a journey through the single ads “Wanted single F , under 33, must enjoy the Sun must enjoy the sea” . The whole things is slightly sinister and captures a sense of despair and sorrow The lyrics are conversational with the final verse not really holding out much hope as the whole things starts again.
5 Romantic Comedy
Another boy girl vocal , another hook laden song , another bit of pure pop . Worth it for the lyric “You think that You’re bad , but you’re just badly raised”. By now you maybe close to sugar overdose – so I suggest you cleanse your palette before side 2.
1 Dead Hearts
Opening track from the largely disappointing Five Ghosts LP. There is something about those call and response vocals I really like , as well as the building to the wall of sound of the chorus
A real favourite of mine – capture a feeling of regret and nostalgia in pretty pop song. Once heard the “good luck , bad luck” chorus is hooked in and will be ringing round your head all day. Again the mix of keyboards and strings works. There is something about the opening line “Its so cold in this country , every road home is long” just seems to say so much and takes me right back to living for 18 months in a Glasgow tenement basement.
3 Trap Door
Another one from the latest album . If I still went to indie discos I can imagine this going down a storm . A simple shout along pop song. Good enough to just about forgive the sax solo. Almost too immediate and one of those songs you can imagine tiring of – almost too catchy but for the moment I am happy to sing along.
4 The 400
The lull after the storm , okay after the slightly strong wind. . So much meaning in such a simple repeated line “It has to go right this time”
5 Calendar Girl
Back to the same LP as side 1 track 1 so a neat feeling of symmetry . This is when they were at their best slightly less keyboards and slightly more guitar . The rallying cry of “I’m Alive “ feels like a good place to stop.
So there we are . 10 tracks maybe in this case be too much but there are some individual crackers here which I hope you like.
mp3 : Stars – Your Ex Lover Is Dead
mp3 : Stars – Heart
mp3 : Stars – Look Away
mp3 : Stars – Personal
mp3 : Stars – Romantic Comedy
mp3 : Stars – Dead Hearts
mp3 : Stars – North
mp3 : Stars – Trap Door
mp3 : Stars – The 400
mp3 : Stars – Calendar Girl
It was the last of these ten that I knew before FoRW’s wonderful contribution. That and the track he mentioned in his introduction:-
mp3 : Stars – This Charming Man
Consider this the hidden track on the imaginary album……
6 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #31 : STARS”
This is a really interesting set. Almost no singles. These are the kind of songs you have personal relationships with, if there is such a thing. Good one FoRW, I’m really enjoying this comp.
Excellent stuff – of course FoRW!! Maybe being an American, I’ve never been concerned with the singles as a focus of any band I liked. Growing up with FM radio in the 70’s and 80’s, a band’s singles were just a gateway to deep album cuts.
And yes, reigning in 10 tracks by Prefab Sprout is near impossible, but I hope an Imaginary Album finds it’s way here. As for Blue Nile, I for one would be very glad to see an IA for them, but yes maybe we are in vocal minority.
nope….it’s your host who is in the minority for The Blue Nile….I just never got it.
So it’s basically a Summer Imagninary Albums Fest round here ? 😉
Wish they’d come to France, pure pop with always heartfelt lyrics.
From the first LP, On Peak Hill or The Very Thing would have deserved the cut.
Nice to read you again, FORW. I don’t know Stars very well, but your taste has always been impeccable. Excited to give this band a try.
Nice choices and a band I love too but find few enough people to share this delight with. Interestingly enough I met Torquil Campbell two or three times. The second was long before Stars days, while at a University of Toronto pub, as he was then dating a friend of mine from uni. After a good many shared drinks all around, I recall we discussed our mutual love of the Smiths and the Trashcan Sinatras. And humorously, as he was an aspiring actor too (he is the son of renowned Canadian actor Douglas Campbell) I asked where he performed. He told me most of his work had been at the Young Peoples Theater in Toronto, and to make conversation I recalled in detail a time in 8th grade when I had seen a performance at the YPT of Great Expectations, which struck me as remakable since the entirely teenage audience had been remarkably rowdy, throwing candies at the actors and heckling, to the point when the Young Pip lost his temper, shouted at the rowdier elements in unprintably strong language, entirely breaking the illusion of the fourth wall. Memorable, it had been, I said with a chuckle to Torquil. He stared at me for some moments, and then said that it had indeed been memorable, as he had in fact been Young Pip, and the performance the worst moment of his acting career. Oops.
I would personally like to have found room for Elevator Love Letter, Tonight, and The Barricade.