Stars | In Our Bedroom After the War (Arts & Crafts)

cd_stars.jpgSongs like "Barricade" are what redeem Stars for their flagrant cheesiness.







Shortly after the controversial online release of In Our Bedroom After the War to iTunes several months before expected, Stars’ latest album received a 7.4/10 on Pitchfork, the revered Chicago-based indie music site. The review prompted a rather violent response from vocalist Torquil Campbell via Stars’ MySpace page, "reviewing reviewers." The rant has since been deleted, but it was reposted here: Torq’s blog.

Given Campbell’s harshness toward those aspiring to provide an objective observation, I am apprehensive of saying anything about Stars for fear I may come across as "dismissive" or "self-congratulatory."

As a critic, however, all we can hope to offer is an honest opinion on music, and in Stars’ case: undoubtedly and unashamedly pop music.

Hailing from Montreal, Stars have crafted a fourth studio album that is an excellent showcase of the band’s talents. Vocalist Amy Millan’s breathy, crooning style would be overwhelming without Campbell, who shares vocals on several tracks, to offset her—the combination creating a more complex sound than the average pop band.

Stars’ lyrics vary from tongue-in-cheek to utterly sincere, with the line between blurring, which makes you wonder whether the entire album is facetious. "My Favourite Book" seems to be an honest reflection on a relationship, a deeply personal tribute to closeness.

Only three tracks later, "Personal" refutes that statement. In this personal ad-styled conversation, I cannot help but feel that they are teasing those who long for someone who "must enjoy the sun, must enjoy the sea…Mrs. Destiny." The characters’ desperation and fear is overplayed and dramatic—but what pop song isn’t dramatic?

The track that pushes the album past honesty into the territory of complete sarcasm is "Barricade," the ballad about two football players in love. The football chanting, the mention of the pigs and tear gas, even the barricade—all at a football game. It’s so subtle; it takes a few listens to put the clues together, at which point it becomes glaringly obvious. Songs like "Barricade" are what redeem Stars for their flagrant cheesiness.

Highlights of In Our Bedroom are "Midnight Coward," "The Ghost of Genova Heights," and "Window Bird." The twittering melodies are accompanied by seemingly genuine lyrics that are, at the same time, totally ridiculous.

In the end, what Stars does works. Not one track on In Our Bedroom After the War falls flat. They play with their sound—using piano intros that lead into a heavy pop beat, or two points of view, two vocal sounds, blending and building into a satisfying pop album. A- | Leah Martin

RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Rilo Kiley, Feist

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