Review: Stars, Set Yourself on Fire
Stars is more or less a five piece from Toronto and “Set Yourself on Fire” is their first full length album. I say more or less because, like other bands in the very active Toronto music scene (Broken Social Scene, Metric), Stars encompasses a large and ever-changing group of musicians who frequently play together both in performance and on each other’s albums. Stars employs dual vocalists in Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. The other members of the core group are Evan Cranley, Pat McGee and Chris Seligman. They all play multiple instruments and they are joined on Stars by lots of friends.
Again like other contemporary Toronto bands Stars plays music that is almost wholly unconstrained by genre boundaries and expectations. They effortlessly incorporate rock guitar and instrumentation with keyboards, strings and brass into music that is usually characterized as indie or alt rock because these categories are so vague that they encompass just about anything. Whatever you want to call it, Stars makes varied, unique and very enjoyable music. Campbell and Millan’s voices are well suited to each other and they often use them to terrific effect as they tell stories about different stages in the lifespan of a relationship from the differing points of view of the two participants. Their lyrics and vocal interplay are wise, insightful and, at times, riveting. Musically the ensemble is right there with them. Individual tracks feel like they have been carefully crafted to suit the needs of the song in style, timbre and instrumentation with virtually no regard for trying to establish a “sound” for the band or highlight the technical skills of any individual player. There are no ego-driven musical displays of technique here.
It’s rare to find a band whose first album is as confident, well rounded and successful as “Set Yourself on Fire”. It’s a CD that gets better the more you listen to it and which doesn’t lose any of its luster when you return to it after several weeks or months away. The problem, at least for Stars, is that it’s too good. Expectations for their followup will be unreasonably high. Recommended.
Music from this CD can be heard on Tuned In To Music Podcast 014 – The Girls in the Band
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