The problem I have with The Five Ghosts is, it doesn't make me feel nothin'. The first song I heard from them, 2003's "Elevator Love Letter" from Heart, wiped me out like a football to the balls. (If I had to describe it eloquently.) Torquil Campbell's fey soft-spokenness reminded me of Morrissey, and Amy Millan's speakeasy soprano gave me one of my first indie crushes. The lush instrumentation didn't hurt, either.
And then we have The Five Ghosts. It feels like we've been in this same velvety room before. Problem is, the curtains seem to be a dull shade of crimson. Songs like "Fixed" and "Wasted Delight" suffer from a dowdy, seen-it-before structure. The traditional aspects that make Stars shine fall flat on this releasethe call and response, the lit-major lyrics, the delicateness of every Stars release. Perhaps it's due to Millan releasing a solo album less than a year ago, but nearly every song on here sounds like a cut from a let's-just-put-something-out-to-put-something-out EP release. Aren't stars supposed to shimmer?
"We Don't Want Your Body," however, is one of the few first-class tracks. Under snapping electronic drums and a hypnotic, serpentine synth beat, Millan coos her ego-assassinating lines, "I'm turned into your frequency/but I don't want your body/I don't want your body." And Campbell, the consummate gentleman, breaks character and raps, "You flash your trash to turn me on/you're just a tramp/you're just a trick."
"Changes" showcases Millan's knee-quavering, honeyed voice. It also reminds me why I got into the band in the first place: their relentless pursuit of pop pulchritude. Now, if only the rest of the album had the same elegance.
Oh, Stars, you pretentious bastards, how I love you. You're like that strange 21-century Americano who loves berets and baguettes and spells color colour. Who loves Morrissey to a pathological extent, who says film and never movie. I humored you, Stars, because you could write pop songs that smacked around all indie-pop competitors. But, Stars, what have you done to me in the Year of The Lord 2010? This The Five Ghosts shit? Not cool.
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