Canadian, coed, expansive, capable of rising, epic drama, and focusing on uplift even in the face of sadness, Stars have neither the hipster cachet nor the mainstream-abutting name recognition of the Arcade Fire, despite occasionally besting that band at its own game. “The Five Ghosts’’ isn’t likely to be the record that reverses their fortunes.
It seems at times as though Stars have a couple of new fellow Canadian, coed, expansive, etc., bands in their sights, with “How Much More’’ resembling Metric minus the punch (or Emily Haines’s command), and the layered and utterly ebullient refrain of “I Died So I Could Haunt You’’ coming off like a symphonic-pop New Pornographers. Echoes of Carl Newman and Neko Case nestle within the vocals of Torquil Campbell and guitarist Amy Millan; “Fixed’’ in particular sounds like a slightly girlish Case fronting New Order.
The spacious atmospherics of “The Five Ghosts’’ lean in the direction of synth-pop, albeit (as with dance shuffle “Never Been Good With Change’’ and the wan “The Last Song Ever Written’’) of a fairly subdued variety. Stars may be moving beyond songs like the soothing and dramatic opener “Dead Hearts,’’ but it’s not quite clear where they’re going. (Out tomorrow)
ESSENTIAL “I Died So I Could Haunt You’’
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.