Both the band’s name, Stars, and the title of their album Nightsongs have an obvious appropriateness about them. The after-midnight feel of these songs wraps the whole project up into the realm of “concept”. Taking unlikely inspiration from The Smiths (whose “The Charming Man” they cover here), Stars’ melancholy blend of atmospheric trip-hop and quiet glam rock is beautiful. It may be slightly pretentious, but you’ll be thankful for it. Stars complete everything they set out to do.
There’s almost an otherworldliness to Nightsongs, as if you’ve tapped into some radio broadcast from the future. Led by the slightly asexual voice of Torquil, these songs have created their own reality where it’s always a rainy night and everyone’s always sad, without ignoring the appeal of either. You won’t know why, but you’ll want to live in this world and never leave.
From the touching “Going, Going, Gone”, with lead vocals by Emily Haines, to the calmly furious “International Rock Star”, Stars cover the spectrum of sorrow on Nightsongs. There is definitely an oppressive feeling to the album, but the band manages to balance it with wispy beats and gentle vocals. Remorse is just a way of life here, and while these songs are sometimes dramatic, they’re not overdone, giving them an urgency and sincerity
Lyrics are mostly secondary to the overall sound of the songs, but that is not to disparage what they do there. While the lyrics are simple, they understate the circumstances surrounding the characters who populate these songs. On “The Very Thing”, the narrator faces maturity, singing “And even though I tried, I couldn’t make her see I wasn’t quite the man she thought I’d be” with understandable defeat. Later, on “Better Be Heaven” Torquil sings “I’ll count the steps to happiness that I’ve missed” with a sigh. Stars’ lyrics are gentle and poignant, and complement the effectiveness of Nightsongs.
Nightsongs feels like a hidden gem. Stars have enough confidence and ability to carry them to wherever they want to take their music, and undoubtedly, those who know will seek them out. They will probably never become wildly famous, but Stars seem like they prefer to be a secret, even if they end up being everyone’s.
// Notes from the Road
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